Jean Seberg was a woefully inadequate actress in almost every role in which she was cast but she seemed born to play Lilith, the unstable, deeply amoral 'heroine' of Robert Rossen's last film. It's an extraordinary performance and it's extraordinary because it doesn't appear to have anything to do with 'acting'; it just seems to exist. The theme of the film is madness, not 'mental illness' but madness in the truly Shakespearean sense of the word, and everything about the film is heightened, a little unreal. Eugen Schufftan photographs the film in a hazy monochrome with the emphasis on white. We peer at the characters through shafts of sunlight, (and there is a lot of water on view, too).
And Seberg isn't the only extraordinary performance. There is excellent work, too, from Warren Beatty as the young nurse drawn into Lilith's web, Kim Hunter as the woman who runs the institution where Lilith is housed and Peter Fonda, (the best of his early performances) as another patient obsessed with Lilith. Indeed the whole cast, (which includes a brilliant, early cameo from Gene Hackman), is working at the top of their form.
The film is an adaptation of a J R Salamanca novel but Rossen renders it in wholly visual terms. He uses his camera the way an artist uses his canvas to convey the inner lives of his characters. It isn't a total success. There are times when it dissolves into hysteria and the symbolism tends to get a bit top-heavy, but it is still a fearless, totally uncommercial movie, possibly it's director's best, and a key American movie of the sixties.
Lilith is a about a mysterious young woman in an elite sanitarium in Maryland, who seems to weave a magical spell all around her. A restless, but sincere young man with an equally obscure past is seemingly drawn into her web. As time passes, their relationship deepens and intensifies, and the differences between them begin to blur, leading to a shocking, but oddly logical conclusion. —Rhea Worrell
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
May 30, 2021 at 03:56 AM