Miss Marx (2020)

Miss Marx
Director: Susanna Nicchiarelli
Writer: Susanna Nicchiarelli
Cast: Romola Garai, Patrick Kennedy, John Gordon Sinclair, Felicity Montagu, Karina Fernandez, Emma Cunniffe, Philip Gröning, George Arrendell, Célestin Ryelandt, Oliver Chris
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 22.10.2020

After the death of her father Karl (Philip Gröning), Eleanor Marx (Romola Garai), who has always been a socialist activist, takes over her father’s mantle. She works hard to make workers’ concerns heard and takes a particular interest in female workers. When she meets Edward Aveling (Patrick Kennedy), also a speaker and activist, she falls for him hard – and he is equally taken with her. Despite their passion for each other and for the socialist movement, their relationship isn’t always happy.

Miss Marx was an excellent start into the Viennale, shedding light on a woman we probably know way too little about. I would have liked it if the film had focused a little more on her political activism and a little less on her relationship with Aveling, but it was really well done.

The film poster showing Eleanor Marx (Romola Garai), blurred because she is moving, her hair wild.

There is this thing that when we talk about famous men, we get to see their achievements and how important they and their work were. When we talk about famous women, the focus is usually on their relationships and usually their relationships with men. So I did acknowledge the fact that Miss Marx goes the same way with a lot of sighing, wishing that for once, a woman’s relationships were treated as footnotes to her work instead.

That being said, the way the relationship between Edward and Eleanor was set in scene was very well done. The way Eleanor’s life gets smaller and smaller because of him, his infidelity, his mishandling of money, and she always there to clean up his messes, even if it means losing her own friends over it. It’s also important to see that such a destructive relationship can happen to anyone, even feminists who are aware of how the patriarchy fucks women over. It’s just not easy to live a feminist life within a patriarchal system.

Eleanor Marx (Romola Garai) and Edward Aveling (Patrick Kennedy) pressing their foreheads together.

The film includes modern punk music, hinting at the revolutionary nature of Eleanor’s politics as well as drawing a straight line to leftist culture today. Plus, the energy the music gives the film makes it possible that the film doesn’t drown in the suffocating relationship. Especially the last punk song that is featured in the film was so incredibly necessary and liberating, I bow to Nicchiarelli for that scene alone.

And I also bow to the costume department. I usually don’t give a fuck about clothes and barely notice them, but I’m here and ready to have my entire wardrobe remade in Eleanor’s style.

Miss Marx was certainly a great start to this year’s Viennale, making me look forward to the rest of the festival very much.

Eleanor Marx (Romola Garai) giving a speech, Edward Aveling (Patrick Kennedy) standing behind her.

Summarizing: really good.

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