In 2000, the year David Rosetzky made Justine, I would have been roughly the same age as its self-doubting protagonist; acting out my own quarter-life crisis, preoccupied with the future and who I might become in the new century. There was no bridge between the present and what lay beyond, other than a stack of fashion, film and interior magazines. I felt as if my unarticulated hopes were somehow contained between those static, flimsy covers. Depending on the day I would either study them for signposts or just flip through the glossy pages with listless inattention. I don’t think it was just me. Truth be told, the turn of the millennium felt weirdly high-key, even as it unfolded against a backdrop of shades of grey. Minimalism was sweeping interiors. Charcoal was everywhere that year. There was a lot of speculation in Culture Studies—another millennium obsession in itself—of the ‘cocooning’ phenomenon. Like a perfectly preserved artifact, Justine brought that time—in history, in the passage of a life—flooding right back.
As a portrait it is an example of controlled economy. Rosetzky’s film is under five minutes in length and contains precisely four shots. Three of the four shots could be described as tableaus, the kind of carefully styled and framed shots found in magazines. They possess an unnatural stillness characteristic of posed photographs. This formal device, of holding Justine in frame in this way, does two things: foregrounds interiority and artifice. Rosetzky amplifies this effect by cutting out all ambient sound and dubbing the footage with Justine’s voice over and a sparse electronic soundscape.
Justine’s self-analysis is wide-ranging as it is obsessive. Her insights range from a critique of her appearance: “I’m completely deformed” to the interpersonal: “I just need people around me. I need them to help me gauge and regulate my behavior.” But she also describes anxiety: “I feel like I have to create my whole lifestyle but there are too many variables to coordinate. Does the music match my mood? My décor? My hair? Does it matter?” To underscore the point Rosetzky frames Justine in such a way as to reinforce her disconnection; she sits beside a sleeping boyfriend in one shot, and in another she listens to a reel-to-reel wearing headphones.
And while the rhetorical mode of Justine is confessional she’s no mess. She recounts these stories with wry self-awareness. Her insights are well integrated, most likely hard-won at the hands of a trained therapist. It’s difficult to escape a sense of self-consciousness in Justine’s candor and frankness. Could you describe it as artifice? In the least pejorative meaning of the word, artifice is simply describing attention to craft: what it might take to create an image, or tell a story, the care you might take in dressing or arranging your hair. In short, what it might take to get your face on.
From the catalogue for True Self: David Rosetzky, CCP
True Self: David Rosetzky
26 July – 15 September 2013
404 George St,
Fitzroy, Vic, 3065,