In 2010, Natalie Portman opened the Venice Film Festival as a tormented ballerina in “Black Swan,” a role that earned her an Oscar. She was back Tuesday with “Vox Lux,” as a brattish pop star with a troubled past.
That past plays out in the film’s early scenes, where Portman’s character, Celeste, played as a 14-year-old girl by Raffey Cassidy, has her life transformed by a school shooting that leaves her wounded and psychologically scarred.
A song Celeste plays at a televised memorial for the dead propels her to fame, condemning the sweet young girl to grow up into an infantilized pop princess, managed by Jude Law who veers between nurturing and sleazy.
Speaking ahead of its world premiere, Portman said “Vox Lux” was “a portrait and a reflection of our society and this sort of intersection of pop culture and violence and the spectacle that we equate between the two.”
Calling the regularity of school shootings in the United States “a sort of civil war,” she added: “The psychological impact of what that means for every kid going to school every day, every parent dropping their kids off every day ... small acts of violence can create widespread psychological torment.”
Writer-director Brady Corbet, who won prizes in Venice in 2015 for his debut “The Childhood of a Leader,” said Portman’s character was “really not designed to be a monster at all.”
“She’s as much a victim of the era as she is a leader of the era ... the film is very much about the fact that the 20th century was marked by the term ‘the banality of evil’ and the 21st century, I think, will be defined by the ‘pageantry of evil.’”
With songs composed by Australian singer-songwriter Sia, “Vox Lux” is one of 21 films vying for the Golden Lion, which will be awarded in Venice on Sept 8.