Christine follows the enigmatic story of Christine Chubbuck, a 70s news reporter who committed suicide live on air
Christine was a peculiarly brilliant film. After having watched the docudrama, Kate Plays Christine, I thought it would be interesting to watch this as a way of seeing Christine Chubbuck’s story come to life. Despite this, Kate Plays Christine shouldn’t be thought of as a companion piece to this film considering both focus on two totally different aspects.
Director Antonio Campos did a spectacular job of capturing the subtle despair of the ambitious, manic depressive news reporter who shot herself live on air in 1974. The use of some distinctive camera shots reflects and reinforces Christine’s mental instability. There’s a lovely scene that comes to mind in which a shot-reverse-shot is used to film a conversation between Christine and her mother. However, instead of showing Christine’s mother when she speaks, we only see the conversation from Christine, while we hear her mother’s voice off-screen. Because of this we get a better insight into the manic state of Chubbuck’s mind as we do not have the image of her mother to detract any of the focus from her.
I described the film as peculiarly brilliant before. This is mainly down to Rebecca Hall’s sublime acting. Another review described Hall’s acting as awful but argued that this was intentional and I have to say that I totally agree. Whilst Hall seemed stiff and hard to relate to, at least for me, it also seemed like this was exactly how Chubbuck was in real life. Her colleagues described her as difficult to approach as she rebuked their efforts to establish any kind of relationship with her. She was shut off from the world, clearly lacking in social skills and unable to truly connect with anyone. Despite this, Christine Chubbuck was desperate to form a relationship with others, particularly of the male kind. She (unsuccessfully) tries to adapt her demeanour to attract the person she wants to impress and it’s through Rebecca Hall’s awkward acting that we see an impressive parallel to the real Christine Chubbuck.
Campos also does a marvellous job of creating a contradictory atmosphere of melodic tension, not only through Rebecca Hall and the cinematography, but also through an excellently chosen support cast. Of particular note is Maria Dizzia, who plays Christine’s ‘friend’ Jean Reed. She unexpectedly evokes a deeper emotional response from the audience as her concern for Christine seems authentic. Her on-screen presence adds another layer to Rebecca Hall’s character, making her all the more complex as she rejects Jean’s attempts to befriend her.
As an intense study of the psyche, this film manages mental health with great finesse. It is an incredibly realistic and intriguing portrayal of it, and Christine’s unravelling is mesmerising to watch. If you’re at a loss for something to watch and you’re into “blood and guts” (some of Christine’s final words), then please watch this.