×

Virgin

Using handheld lensing to embrace a young woman's frightening spiritual/sexual experience, Deborah Kampmeier's "Virgin" evinces too much of the Lars Von Trier influence while falling victim to some of its central character's overt strangeness. Certain to divide auds, the film is never quite as startling or mysterious as it seems to want to be.

With:
With: Elisabeth Moss, Daphne Rubin Vega, Socorro Santiago, Peter Gerety, Stephanie Gatschet, Sam Riley, Charles Socarides, Christopher Wynkoop, Robin Wright Penn. (English, Spanish dialogue.)

Using handheld, intimately close-up lensing to embrace a young woman’s frightening spiritual/sexual experience, Deborah Kampmeier’s “Virgin” evinces too much of the Lars Von Trier influence (especially “Breaking the Waves”) while falling victim to some of its central character’s overt strangeness. Certain to divide fest and — if it’s lucky — theatrical auds with its intensity, the film is never quite as startling or mysterious as it seems to want to be, leaving it in an uncertain cinematic limbo.

Jessie (Elisabeth Moss) is the rebel child of a born-again Christian family led with an iron hand by her dad (Peter Gerety), while more sensitive mom (Robin Wright Penn) looks on. In contrast, goodie-goodie younger sister Katie (Stephanie Gatschet) is too broadly drawn to feel true, though her way of handling the advances of local boys Shane (Charles Socarides) and Michael (Sam Riley) is much more complexly drawn and eventually more crucial to the narrative.

For Jessie, a seemingly innocuous drunken encounter with Shane in the woods during a school dance turns into something much darker, when she later claims to be miraculously pregnant, with her virginity intact.

Moss plays Jessie at a fever pitch that lends “Virgin” an atmosphere of uneaseand imbalance. Though her condition could be attributed to teen hysteria, Moss’ complex characterization and Kampmeier’s lurking camera, attached to the lead at nearly all times (recalling not only Von Trier but to a certain extent the Dardennes’ “Rosetta” and “The Son”), cuts against such an easy reading.

Eventually, the ways a supposedly “bad girl” can present a conservative small town, her strictly religious family and a few randy boys with claims that produce ugly and wrathful responses can go only so far. And rather than adding new dimensions to the breadth of Jessie’s dilemma, her encounters with two lonely women — one homeless, the other abused — tilt things in an unconvincingly polemical and obvious direction.

Moss creates a sad character with interesting shades of boredom, curiosity, nerve and wonder, far outdistancing a supporting cast mostly relegated to playing hard-edged types. Production, combining vid and film, is done with a rigorous rawness.

Virgin

Production: A Full Moon Films presentation. Produced by Sarah Schenk. Executive producers, Robin Wright Penn, Raye Dowell, Deborah Kampmeier. Co-producer, Carolyn Demerice. Directed, written by Deborah Kampmeier.

Crew: Camera (Swete Studios color, digital video), Ben Wolf; editor, Jane Pia Ambromowitz; production designer, Katherine Mathews; sound, Anthony Viera; supervising sound editor, Eric Offin; associate producers, Jeffrey Sosnick, Brian Schreckenghost, John Valentine, David Oliver Cohen, Perri Kipperman; assistant director, Terry Leonard. Reviewed at IFP Los Angeles Film Festival (Narrative), June 14, 2003. Running time: 113 MIN.

With: With: Elisabeth Moss, Daphne Rubin Vega, Socorro Santiago, Peter Gerety, Stephanie Gatschet, Sam Riley, Charles Socarides, Christopher Wynkoop, Robin Wright Penn. (English, Spanish dialogue.)

More Film

  • Voltage Pictures to Produce Airborne Thriller

    Voltage Pictures to Produce Airborne Thriller 'Blackwing' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Voltage Pictures will produce and fully finance screenwriter David Loughery’s latest thriller “Blackwing,” Variety has learned exclusively. The company will introduce “Blackwing” to buyers at the upcoming European Film Market at the Berlin Film Festival, which opens Feb. 7. Nicolas Chartier and Dominic Rustam are producing, and Jonathan Deckter is executive producing for Voltage Pictures. [...]

  • ‘Metro Exodus’ Opens Up Post-Apocalyptic Russia

    ‘Metro Exodus’ Author On Film, Possible TV Series, Expansive New Game

    Since the launch of the post-apocalyptic survival first-person shooter “Metro 2033” in 2010, the series has kept its action confined to the tunnels running underneath Russia. “Metro Exodus,” due out next month, takes the gameplay to the surface for the first time, going above ground with sprawling levels against a changing backdrop of weather conditions [...]

  • Berlin Film 'The Ground Beneath My

    Berlin Competition Film 'The Ground Beneath My Feet' Sold to Germany's Salzgeber (EXCLUSIVE)

    Salzgeber has acquired the German rights for Berlin Film Festival competition title “The Ground Beneath My Feet” from sales agent Picture Tree International. Variety has been given exclusive access to the film’s trailer. Salzgeber will release the film, directed by Marie Kreutzer, mid-May. Picture Tree describes the movie as a “contemporary female-led drama touching on [...]

  • Donald Glover'Atlanta' TV show premiere, Arrivals,

    Childish Gambino Surprises Beverly Hills Crowd With Reimagined 'Redbone'

    Donald Glover made an unexpected appearance at Film Independent’s “An Evening With…” series tonight (Jan. 15), held at the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts in Beverly Hills and presented by the HFPA. Joining “Black Panther” composer and Childish Gambino collaborator Ludwig Göransson, who was the subject of a Q&A conducted by “The Treatment” host Elvis [...]

  • 76th ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS --

    Film News Roundup: Glenn Close Selected for Oscar Wilde Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Glenn Close gets an honor, AFI names its Directing Workshop for Women participants and Teri Polo gets cast in a Christmas drama. CLOSE HONOR Glenn Close will be honored on Feb. 21 by the US-Ireland Alliance at the 14th Annual Oscar Wilde Awards, held at J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot in [...]

  • Jason Reitman Ghostbusters

    Jason Reitman to Direct Secret 'Ghostbusters' Movie

    Sony Pictures is getting the wheels in motion for the next installment in the “Ghostbusters” franchise, and it knows who it’s going to call to direct: Jason Reitman. Sources tell Variety that Reitman, whose father, Ivan, directed the first two “Ghostbusters” movies, will direct the latest pic in the famous franchise. Reitman has also co-written a [...]

  • L.A. Teachers' Strike: Hollywood Studios, Unions

    Hollywood Studios, Unions Support Parents and Educators as L.A. Teachers' Strike Rages

    Hollywood unions and entertainment companies have stepped up to support the 31,000 Los Angeles teachers in the second day of a massive strike that’s affected nearly half a million students. More than 50 SAG-AFTRA members picketed at a Tuesday afternoon rally in the driving rain next to the Hollywood & Highland Center with secretary-treasurer Jane [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content