VENICE: Hollywood star Natalie Portman has called school shootings in America the country’s “civil war”, comparing the psychological torment they cause to the threat of terror attacks in Israel. The Oscar-winning actor drew the parallel before the premiere of her new film about a traumatised pop diva Vox Lux, which opens with a Columbine-style massacre.
“I have been interested in the questions around the psychology of what violence does to individuals and in mass psychology for some time, coming from a place where people have encountered violence for so long,” said the Israeli-born star, best known for Black Swan. “Unfortunately, it is a phenomenon we now experience regularly in the United States with the school shootings. As (the film’s director) Brady Corbet has put to me before, it is a kind of civil war and terror that we have in the US.”
The regular mass killings were having a “psychological impact on every kid going to school every day and every parent dropping their kids off,” Portman added. “Small acts of violence can cause widespread torment.”
Portman, 37, plays a singer who is badly wounded in a bloodbath at her school but builds a pop career after she sings at a memorial for her classmates. Corbet, who was a schoolboy in Colorado at the time of the Columbine killings, confessed that the massacre marked him psychologically. “I was living there when it happened. It was close to home.”
Corbet was editing his award-winning directorial debut The Childhood of a Leader in Paris when the city was hit by a wave of terror attacks in 2015. “I had a five-month-old (child) at that point, and me and my wife were shaken by it. One restaurant that got shot up was a place we went a few times a week so it was a narrow miss. We were haunted by it,” he said.
The film-maker described his story as a “poetic rumination of what we have all been through… We live in an age of anxiety. We are having more sleepless nights than ever.” He said the film, with its anti-heroine star – played by British actor Raffey Cassidy in her younger years and Portman when she becomes a Madonna-like diva – was meant as a salve, “something we could come together over.”
“When I think about what will define the early 21st century, especially as an American, it’s Columbine, 9/11 and the global terror threat that has permeated every place I have lived. I wanted to look at what we’ve all been through in the last 20 years,” he told Screen magazine earlier. Corbet later told reporters that “the 20th century was defined by the banality of evil. I think the 21st century will be defined by the pageantry of evil.”
The director said it took him a year alone to put together the film’s soundtrack before he started shooting. Australian pop singer-songwriter Sia and avant garde darling Scott Walker came up with the tunes for Portman and Cassidy’s characters, with Portman’s husband, French choreographer Benjamin Millepied, putting together the dance numbers for the stadium show finale.
Vox Lux is the second major pop music-based movie on the rise of a female singer this year. Lady Gaga, last week, won glowing reviews for her debut as a big screen leading lady in a remake of A Star is Born.
Have something to add to the story? Share in the comments below.