In 2019, Australian Justin Kurzel breathed the adventures of one of the most famous outlaws of his land into the film with the spirit and energy of punk music. The true story of Kelly’s gang. With his decision, the director came to establish a fierce parallelism between the rebellious substance of the mythical bandit of the 19th century, against the British colonial rule, and the social filth and fury of the songs and the performances of bands like the Sex Pistols.
A year later, at the last Venice festival, the Italian Susanna Nicchiarelli went a step further by establishing a similar formal technique, although applied to another historical figure quite different from Ned Kelly: Eleanor Marx, youngest daughter of the philosopher and economist Karl Marx and of the thinker and writer Johanna Bertha Julie von Westphalen, political activist, defender of workers’ and women’s rights. For Nicchiarelli, who makes it explicit through his soundtrack, the little Marx was a punkie politics and feminism, and narrates it in Miss Marx, interesting biography about his public social struggle, and also about his private life, which spans from 1883, when he devoted himself mainly to representing works by Henrik Ibsen and promoting the idea that through representations the rejection of the more conventional forms was encouraged of love and marriage, in addition to the union struggle, until the time of his death, in 1898.
Musical anachronism, therefore, dominates Miss Marx. Guitarrazos of contemporary history, solidarity, workers’ struggle and vindication of women’s rights, which include a version punk from The International performed by the American band Downtown Boys. Sound percussion that is accompanied by juicy meta-theatrical games, camera parliaments in the style of François Truffaut, and film and photographic documentary images (from the time and, again as an anachronism, from Margaret Thatcher’s United Kingdom), which the Italian author combines with long passages of biopic something more ordinary, in which the feisty Eleanor always runs into patriarchy, exposed in two ways: that of the distinguished father who never saw his daughter as an equal in the fight, precisely because she is a woman; and that of a lover with a double and even triple life, who deceived her from beginning to end.
And it is right here where Miss Marx it is more interesting, due to its complexity, and at the same time less consequential: in the contradictions of the woman, which are at the same time those of Nicchiarelli’s film. Advocate for female independence and self-reliance, a fighter against their oppression and degradation, Eleanor was convinced that love stood in the way of any ideal: the communist and the feminist. And yet he died for what he died. Maybe that’s why the final dance looking at the camera, to the rhythm of a punk concert, be both inspiring in your theory and counterproductive in your practice.