TIFF 2018: Vox Lux

Brady Corbet’s musical drama explores domestic acts of violence, terrorism, and privacy rights

At its TIFF premiere on September 7, Vox Lux received a great deal of praise from critics and plenty of exposure to the public. It had also premiered at the 75th annual Venice Film Festival, receiving a similarly positive reception.

Directed by Brady Corbet and starring award-winning actors Natalie Portman and Jude Law, the films tells the story of a young girl, Celeste (Raffey Cassidy), who catapults to fame after surviving a mass shooting.

Vox Lux presents itself almost as a mockumentary-type film, with its use of ’90s style videography and voiceovers by Willem Dafoe. Divided into three parts, the film portrays the progression of Celeste’s budding career and her own personal development from a naïve teenager to a careless adult. The first part, set in 1999, depicts a young Celeste and her older sister, Eleanor (Stacy Martin), who survive a traumatic school shooting.

The girls decide to write a song about their feelings toward the event, which captures the attention of a manager (Jude Law). Young Celeste and Eleanor savour their first taste of fame, travelling around central Europe and embarking on a music career.

In the later parts of the film, which follow a 31-year-old Celeste (Natalie Portman), she is now a careless pop star dealing with a plethora of scandals in both her public and personal lives. Celeste faces yet another act of violence in her life, with an act of terrorism using her image.

The film successfully tackles this difficult subject matter by echoing real life events, such as the Columbine mass shooting in 1999, and provides a fresh, first-person perspective.

It is at this point in the film that the audience notices the change in Celeste’s music style and image. They drastically shift from simple, teenybopper lyrics and bubblegum pop to an eclectic, edgy, and autotuned style, reflecting her troubles and overall downward spiral.

It seems as if Celeste is meant to be a parallel to real-life teen pop stars — 2007 was not a good year for Britney Spears.

In the end, the big question that the audience is left to contemplate is, “How much exposure is too much?”

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