Vanessa Redgrave is one of those actresses who lights up the screen simply with one look. She gives so much energy, mystery and life, so much intelligence and grace is constantly shining inside her. In only a few scenes at the beginning she already establishes the whole character of Julia. She is a fighter, a strong, intelligent woman (excepted at Oxford) and a great friend to Lilly. In one second she can show more passion and determination for her cause than others in 2 hours. When Lilly says that there is a time when every woman reaches a perfect age and that it had happened to Julia, you believe her. When she says to Lilly ‘Lilly, finally there’s some real hope in the world’, Vanessa Redgrave tells everything about Julie – her political views, her own believes and her whole character.
After that, Julia is gone for a long time, but as mentioned before, her presence is everywhere. Just like later in Howards End, Vanessa Redgrave has the ability to create an everlasting character mostly thanks to her own strength and dominating screen presence. And then it all comes to the scene in Berlin when Julia and Lilly meet again. Even Jane Fonda (normally not a favourite of mine) shines during this scene as she and Vanessa Redgrave truly seem like life-longs friends – Lilly, scared und unsure of the whole situation and Julia, strong and protecting. Vanessa Redgrave does not display an easy visible amount of emotions in that scene but she says everything with her eyes – her love for Lilly, her fear, her hope, the joy of experiencing a short moment of happiness even though the danger is constantly present. That glorious inner fire that is burning in Julia and in Vanessa Redgrave makes this scene a masterclass in acting. Even though Julia is only sitting at a table, Vanessa Redgrave makes her a force of nature. When she shows Lilly that she has a false leg, Julia just says ‘It’s done, that’s what it is.’
It is a very small role but Vanessa Redgrave is able to make Julia one of the most fascinating and interesting characters that ever grace the screen.