Rebecca Hall leads in the true-life account of Christine Chubbuck, the news reporter who committed suicide live on air.
With their UK releases nearly almost coinciding, Christine and Jackie both readdress our perception of women whose lives have been singularly defined by bullets to the head. Craig Shilowich’s screenplay is exemplary in its respect for nuance and level of detailed research, that which is often excluded from the more simplified accounts of Christine Chubbuck’s death.
Sensitive and humane, Rebecca Hall’s performance eulogises hard work and ambition. Her suicide is represented as the consequence of a set of circumstances rather than just a means to an end. The establishing shot frames Christine through the television screen. She is interviewing Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal. The camera angle widens and we understand that her questions are addressed to an empty chair. Shilowich insists Christine ask ‘Are they really after you or is it all just paranoia?’ over and over again, each time questioning how it comes across on camera. This film is relentless.
For its frightening intensity, Christine is also quite funny. Antonio Campos relieves the tension with his very kitsch 1970s backdrop (think side burns and paisley prints), and even though the station struggles for ratings, the banter between its anchors never ceases. Christine’s morbid subject-matter does not define its tone, and I think this is testament to its very artful story-telling.
Shilowich’s conclusion, as Rachel Brook has observed, is too much of a heavy-handed reference back to itself. It may have, instead, suited fellow Sundance movie also about Christine, Kate Plays Christine). In Campos’ narrative feature, however, we are left with a final turn that sadly belies the film’s knack for subtlety.