The never-ending struggle which takes place over one midsummer night in Miss Julie balances between a battle of the sexes and a class struggle. The title character, Miss Julie (Anita Bjӧrk), is the daughter of a rich man and living on a large estate with many servants to treat her well to her face only secretly longing to bring her down to their level, gossiping gladly once she has left. Miss Julie’s fiancé has just decided that her demanding nature is unbearable and leaves her in refusal to be demeaned any longer by her games. This leaves Miss Julie feeling somewhat trapped as her servants gossip about her sad state, but as she doesn’t prevent this from her participation in the celebration on this particular midsummer evening. Her antics begin by dancing with the help, which slowly escalates into behavior that gives plenty for the estate to gossip about.
Miss Julie spends the evening with Jean (Ulf Palme), who was the servant able to witness and spread the events of Julie’s fiancé departing. While Julie’s father still has hopes of repairing this relationship, Jean sees the events as an opportunity. After many instances of teasing Jean, knowing he is engaged to another of the servants in the estate, Julie finally submits to his longing and instantly loses the control she has held over him so competently. With nothing left to withhold Julie begins opening up to Jean with the remainder of the evening, and the two share childhood horror stories. The power struggle shifts upon Julie’s submission to Jean, and the games seem to continue as they share stories of class differences as well.
Oddly enough, the class struggle seems completely separate from the battle of the sexes. Even though it seems to be Julie’s position at the estate that gives her power and control over the men in her life, her treatment of her fiancé shows that the struggle is far more than just class. Even her supposed equals are treated as servants to Julie, and only after she has given in to the sexual longings that give her the power does she seem to lose control. Despite Jean working for her father he quickly exerts control over Julie when she has submitted sexually. The only person seen to have this strangle-hold on Julie is her mother in flashback sequences of her childhood, and this dynamic is a stark comparison when paired next to her childlike insecurity with Jean when she thinks that he has spoiled her.
There are two essays included in the booklet for the DVD, one of which spends a great deal remarking on how Swedish filmmaker Alf Sjӧberg is often overshadowed by Ingrid Bergman. Peter Matthews argues this is mostly due to the inability Americans have accepting more than one filmmaker per foreign country, and Bergman’s Persona drew him a great deal of attention in terms of Swedish cinema, despite Sjӧberg’s impressive career. Sjӧberg also adapted the screenplay himself from the August Strindberg play, which is discussed in the second essay in the booklet, “Fiery Gloom Onstage” by Birgitta Steene. The DVD itself also contains an impressive collection of features, with focus remaining on the sadly under-appreciated Swedish filmmaker.