The Private Life Of A Modern Woman: First Look from Venice

The Private Life of a Modern Woman was conceived by the star of the film herself: Sienna Miller. The American drama directed by James Toback − that screened out of competition at the 74th Venice International Film Festival − is the story of a successful actress struggling to keep up with public appearance amid personal doubt and depression.

The emancipated contemporary female of the title is Vera Lockman, a Hollywood actress who lives alone in a lavish Manhattan loft. When we first are introduced to her character she is dreaming of accidentally shooting her drug-dealing ex-boyfriend (Nick Mathews) in her living room. The meta thriller gives way to a variety of meditations, since the modern woman uses the incident as inspiration for a short story, which serves as the film’s own voiceover track, which Miller performs.

Alec Baldwin, Charles Grodin and Colleen Camp co-star. But the film fully belongs to the titular modern woman who gave birth to this cinematic project: Sienna Miller’s Vera is the essence of the narrative. The audience follows her from one scene to the next almost as an Orwellian voyeuristic eye. We cannot withdraw our interest from the life of this celebrity. Not only do we observe her public image but also her vulnerability, and her wounded attempts to fill the crevices in her profoundly complex psyche.

The style in which the cinematic novella unfolds is a virtuoso of raw meta narration, where artistic genres coalesce. The director intertwines music classics with a masterpiece from history of art to further enhance the turmoil of the character: Hieronymous Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights is brought to a new light with A German Requiem by Brahms, the Bach B-Minor Mass, in addition to the devastating  the Shostakovitch Seventh symphony. All these elements kaleidoscopically compose the multiple angles of Vera’s personality and narration, as the Aristotelian unities of time, place and action blend with her stream of consciousness.