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The Criterion Collection presents

Miss Julie (1951)

“Miss Julie’s crazy again this evening!”- Jean (Ulf Palme)

Stars: Anita Björk, Ulf Palme
Other Stars: Märta Dorff, Max von Sydow
Director: Alf Sjöberg

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult situations)
Run Time: 01h:30m:02s
Release Date: 2008-01-22
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

1951’s Miss Julie, based on August Strindberg’s 1888 play of the same title, is the product of Swedish auteur Alf Sjöberg. Often lost in the limelight so graced by the legendary Ingmar Bergman, Sjöberg has proven himself to be just as fine an auteur as his younger, more famous peer.

With her father, Count Carl (Anders Henrikson), away on business, Miss Julie (Anita Björk) decides to frolic among the servants at her estate in the annual Midsummer’s Eve Festival. While there, she is taken with one of them, Jean (Ulf Palme), who has had similar feelings for her since childhood. It’s a bit difficult for this new love to evolve, given that Jean is engaged to the head of the kitchen, Kristen (Märta Dorff). Such a relationship is also completely unacceptable in the society of the times; theirs is the epitome of a forbidden love.

The winner of the Grand Prix at the 1951 Cannes Film Festival, Miss Julie is, arguably, the best of the play’s numerous film adaptations, and a masterpiece in its own right. Sjöberg pushed the boundaries of Swedish cinema with his strong suggestion (in at least one scene) of sexual activity. The entire film is unconventional, especially when compared to the original play, but even if you’ve never heard of the story, let alone seen another film or stage production of it, its appeal is timeless.

One of the marks of Sjöberg’s genius is his ability, let alone willingness, to take so many daring liberties with such a well-known story. For starters, the original stage play took place in a single setting, the kitchen. In the film, this setting merely bookends the rest of the proceedings, which take place throughout the sprawling estate. Sure, this is something easily accomplished in movies, but Sjöberg could have easily rested on his laurels and simply filmed a play. He also adds characters to the tale, including a memorable performance by a young Max Von Sydow. We also get to see the Count (Anders Henrikson) as a living, breathing character, whereas the original story never fleshed him out.

Such liberties take nothing away from Strindberg’s original story, and only add to the film’s effectiveness. Rarely has rapid-fire dialogue between two prospective forbidden lovers been so engaging, and in Swedish no less! There’s never a dull moment as Jean and Miss Julie go from whispering sweet nothings to arguing over what love is truly about. We also get beautifully timed looks at both characters’ back stories, with Miss Julie’s having enough engaging aspects to make it worthy of its own film.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The film is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio, and it has never looked better. The black-and-white image features brilliant grays and deep, rich blacks throughout. The detailed images show off the restoration work, but there are still a few blemishes that crop up from time to time.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The original Swedish mono track is here, and it’s virtually problem-free. There’s nothing special here, audio wise, but that’s not exactly a surprise. What we do get is crystal clear dialogue and music that isn’t overdone and is well-integrated into the mix.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Documentaries
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Alf Sjöberg Interview
Extras Review: The extras include a video essay by film historian Peter Cowie. This 33-minute piece focuses on Miss Julie, touching also on Alf Sjöberg, and the lengths he went to make this controversial film.

There’s also a nearly seven-minute interview with the director. Filmed in 1966, it features the filmmaker discussing his early film career with host Nils Petter Sundgren.

Miss Julie– 100 Years in the Limelight is a 57-minute documentary produced for Swedish TV in 2006. The focus here is a recent stage production of the play, but we also get plenty of talk about the film version, including discussions with Anita Björk and Bibi Andersson, former “Julie”s.

Finishing things up is the original trailer for Miss Julie.

Extras Grade: B-

Final Comments

If you aren’t already picking up everything The Criterion Collection has to offer, you should be. Miss Julie is a great place to start. Alf Sjöberg’s adaptation of August Strindberg’s timeless play is a masterpiece of Swedish cinema that rivals even the best that Bergman has to offer. This is another example of Criterion’s greatness, featuring excellent audio and video, along with supplements that are true treasures.

Chuck Aliaga 2008-02-12