Actress and political activist Jean Seberg committed suicide in 1979 at the age of 40. In his poignant thriller biopic JEAN SEBERG – AGAINST ALL ENEMIES Director Benedict Andrews now devotes himself to the part of her life that first led her to severe depression and ultimately suicide. We’ll reveal how the film turned out in our review.
At the end of the sixties. Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart) is still an acting icon. The politically active woman has recently been supporting members of the Black Power movement. She even begins an affair with activist Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie). This liaison puts her in the sights of the FBI. Unbeknownst to her, Jean Seberg’s house is bugged and is now under constant surveillance. But the young actress has sensitive antennae for what is happening around her. She suspects that she is being persecuted, but she cannot find the support she needs in her husband Roman (Yvan Attal). Jean Seberg falls into a deep depression, constantly threatened by the fear of being persecuted. The two wiretapping specialists and FBI agents Jack Solomon (Jack O’Connell) and Carl Kowalski (Vince Vaughn) experience the psychological deterioration of their target first hand, but only one of them slowly begins to have scruples…
It’s the little things that sometimes make you think about how firmly anchored the different perceptions of women and men are in film or pop culture in general. When filmmakers make biopics about famous male personalities, so-called biopics, the title often focuses on what this person became famous for. “The Social Network”, “A Beautiful Mind”, “The King’s Speech”, or you can directly use the name by which this person became known: “Gandhi”, for example. In the case of women-centric film portraits, however, things look a little different. In most cases, you leave the first name as the title for the film. Examples: “Frida” about Frida by Julie Taymor, “I, Tonya” about Tonya Harding, “Violette” about the writer Violette Leduc or “Paula” about the painter Paula Modersohn-Becke. Probably the most recent example: “Judy” about Judy Garland. And if you use a different title, you don’t know at first glance what it’s actually about. How are the “Hidden Figures” supposed to step out of the men’s shadow in retrospect if they aren’t even given a meaningful film title?
Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart) enters into a relationship with activist Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie).
Benedict Andrews’ “Jean Seberg” might not have necessarily needed the subtitle “Against All Enemies,” which was added specifically for the USA market, but the director of the drama insider tip “Una and Ray” already gives the film title (the film is even called in the original simply “Seberg”) suggests that he sees the central actor as a full-fledged person. Jean Seberg is not just Jean, an emotional person, but a woman who, outside of her acting career, had an exciting and pitiful existence when she was targeted by the FBI and pushed deep, deep into depression. Benedict Andrews stages his biopic as a mixture of thriller and drama, in which the acting legend Jean Seberg hardly plays a role. You only see her once, embodied by an outstanding Kristen Stewart (“The Clouds of Sils Maria”), when this one lies on a film set and tries to avoid the gaze of a cameraman. A scene in which the professional stage or screen persona comes together with the woman shaken by the events.
Instead, “Jean Seberg” presents the eponymous main character as a resolute political activist. One of the first scenes ever shows her on an airport tarmac, being photographed with a group of Black Power activists. The fact that the FBI is starting to hunt her down initially bothers her less than she expected; on the contrary. The woman, who is firmly established in life, sometimes even flirts with her popularity in order to specifically use it to attract attention to political issues. But as the running time increases, Andrews focuses on the noose that gradually tightens around Seberg’s neck and on how naturally the investigators snoop around her life. Simply listening in on Seberg’s private conversations, including attempts to intimidate him via telephone calls, is an enormous invasion of privacy. But moments like this, in which the FBI members enter the actress’s apartment as a matter of course and move around there, as if it were not Jean Seberg but she herself who were at home here, really get your throat tight.
The actress is targeted by investigators.
Particularly in the second half of “Jean Seberg – Against all Enemies”, the suffering brought about by the investigators (and at some point simply unavoidable) is almost unbearable for the protagonist. When she desperately searches for the bugs in her apartment at night, the viewer knows that she is right in all her fears and Seberg’s husband is on the verge of declaring his wife insane, you would like to jump into the screen in anger . The escalating consequences of these investigations, which are based on true events and even cost a human life, finally turn the Seberg case into a filmed memorial. Perhaps with all this tragedy and the focus on Seberg’s psychological state and her fight for recognition, some aspects that are also taken up are neglected. The relationship between her and the married Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie) and – of course – her life as an actress. But Benedict Andrews wanted to visibly tell about something different, something more important than a grandiose actress. And the way he does it here, not only the film, but also the person Jean Seberg remains in the memory in a haunting way.
Conclusion: “Jean Seberg – Against all Enemies” is a biopic in the guise of a spy thriller that does not show us the actress Jean Seberg, but does show us her complex personality, her strength, her fearlessness and her emotionality.
“Jean Seaberg – Against all Enemies” can be seen in USA cinemas from September 17th.