Kate Plays Christine

Robert Greene's provocative film about Christine Chubbuck is non-fiction filmmaking by way of psychological thriller

Film Review by Josh Slater-Williams | 07 Oct 2016
  • Kate Plays Christine
Film title: Kate Plays Christine
Director: Robert Greene
Starring: Kate Lyn Sheil
Release date: 14 Oct
Certificate: 15

In Robert Greene’s non-fiction feature Kate Plays Christine, actor Kate Lyn Sheil painstakingly prepares to play the role of TV reporter Christine Chubbuck, whose successful on-air suicide attempt in 1974 allegedly inspired Network. No footage of the incident exists in the public sphere, however, nor much video of Chubbuck at all, so Sheil finds great difficulty in trying to get to grips with the world and mind of this unknowable figure. But then more pressing issues plague the actor’s headspace, such as the actual worth of exhuming the dead through film; the merit of constructing drama from a depressed individual’s tragedy; and the issues of accountability and empathy that arise from doing so, despite whatever intent a director may use to justify the project.

Sheil’s research processes – including a Vertigo-esque physical transformation and retracing of Chubbuck’s known steps – are intertwined with speculative re-enactments of events leading up to the suicide, deliberately conveyed in a sterile, disconcerting fashion. The resulting effect is a thoroughly disturbing cinematic experience: non-fiction filmmaking by way of psychological thriller.

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