Review | Eleanor Marx, daughter of Karl, gets spotlight in ‘Miss Marx’

Miss Marx | Dir: Susanna Nicchiarelli | ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Eleanor Marx was the closest confidant to her father Karl Marx, becoming his secretary at the age of sixteen and travelling around the world with him to socialist conferences. The film opens with Eleanor (Romola Garai) delivering the eulogy at Karl’s funeral in 1883 where he is buried alongside his wife Jenny … in a grave that their lifelong housekeeper Helene Demuth would later share.

Eleanor (otherwise known as Tussy) was born in London in 1855, and she and her sister Laura are the two remaining children of seven. Her mother had met Karl at 17 and married at 18 and Eleanor was haunted by her mother’s advice that she was not to ruin her life with marriage and children. She dedicates her life to honouring her father’s legacy, starting with translating Das Kapital into English.

The first woman to link feminism and socialism, Eleanor helped form The Socialist League and battled for women’s and workers’ rights and an end to child labour. She helped organise protests and archival footage, accompanied by punk rock music, reminds the audience of how tough times were for workers at the end of the nineteenth century.

As Eleanor battles for universal suffrage, she falls in love with activist, playwright and opium smoker Edward Aveling (Patrick Kennedy) who leached her money and eventually her happiness. Although she calls marriage ‘an organised ‘hypocrisy’, she lives with the philandering Aveling and loses many of her friends by continuing the relationship.

The film is gloomy and bookended by death but, although Miss Marx’s life is marked by tragedy, it is a record of the times and the struggles that went towards achieving some of the social equalities we enjoy today. The biggest tragedy seems to be the contrast between her feminist campaigning and her disastrous private life.

Miss Marx screens as part the Revelation Film Festival that runs from 1 – 11 July at Luna, Leederville. See for more information.

Lezly Herbert

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