Miss Marx a punk biopic of 1800s socialist and feminist activist

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You’ve probably heard of Karl Marx, 19th century socialist and author of The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital. Who you may not have heard of however is his daughter Eleanor, who after her father’s death made her own mark as a feminist and socialist campaigner.

Director Susanna Nicchiarelli gives Eleanor a chance to step out of her father’s shadow and onto centre stage in her latest film Miss Marx.

The film shows Eleanor (Romola Garai) as a vibrant and passionate writer and speaker when it comes to workers’ and women’s rights, yet completely under the spell of playwright Edward Aveling (Patrick Kennedy), a married man whose excessive spending wastes away Eleanor’s inheritance.

“’The woman who translated Madame Bovary and ended up just like her’, is the first thing I read about Eleanor and I found the contradiction of a feminist committing suicide for love interesting and worth some research,” Nicchiarelli said.

“Of course, looking into it, I discovered that things were much more complicated and interesting.

“I think her story is an emblematic tale about emancipation, love, dependency, revolution and the human condition.”

Nicchiarelli said she worked closely with Garai to bring Eleanor to life.

“Romola helped me a lot, the character was a difficult one to deal with for both of us,” she said.

“We all have an Eleanor inside of us, we all know what dependence is and to what extent of degradation we can arrive at.

Susanna Nicchiarelli directing Clelia Rossi Marcelli as young Eleanor.
Camera IconSusanna Nicchiarelli directing Clelia Rossi Marcelli as young Eleanor. Credit: Emanuela Scarpa

“Romola is a very intelligent and charismatic woman and she was perfect for the political Eleanor.

“Without Romola’s help, I don’t know if I would have been able to decipher Eleanor’s feelings and motivation.”

For Nicchiarelli, Eleanor’s tragedy is less that she stays with a selfish man and more that she wasn’t able to question what she really wanted.

“I think she loved him very much for more than one reason: his vitality and lightness, maybe also his narcissism, he was an actor and a very interesting man.

“’He’s like a child’, ‘He has no moral sense’, she said things like that about him, somehow justifying him, never judging him.

“I think her real problem was to understand who she really was, and that she deserved better.”

More than your average biopic, Miss Marx uses a punk soundtrack to highlight that what Eleanor was writing and talking about in the 1800s is still just as relevant today.

“The film reminds us that imagining a better world and fighting for it is still possible,” Nicchiarelli said.

“The process of fighting is what keeps us alive.”

Miss Marx is now showing in cinemas.

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