Director: Bruno Dumont. Starring: Juliette Binoche, Jean-Luc Vincent. France 2013. 95 mins. French with English subtitles.
Discover Tuesdays Programmer Paul Ridd takes a look at this week’s film, Bruno Dumont’s study of tortured French artist Camille Claudel.
Renowned for his austere, disturbing filmic interrogations of religious faith and ordinary people thrown into extreme circumstances, French director Bruno Dumont (THE LIFE OF JESUS, HORS SATAN) has carved a name for himself as one of the most exciting auteurs working in art-house cinema today.
The subject of his new film, volatile sculptress Camille Claudel, led a troubled and tragic life, 30 years of which were spent incarcerated in a mental institution, from 1913 until her death in 1943. There, she wrestled with faith, madness and a genuine grievance against her family who so callously locked her away.
There could be no better pairing of subject with filmmaker, then, than in this poignant and exquisitely filmed study of three days in the life of Claudel, as she mixes with fellow inmates, tries to bear the daily drudgeries of asylum life, and pleads with her visiting brother, poet Paul Claudel (Jean-Luc Vincent), who had it in his power to release her.
Arguably the major revelation of this perfectly judged, thematically rich film is Juliette Binoche (THREE COLOURS BLUE, CERTIFIED COPY) who, as Claudel, embodies the outward hysteria and panic of an artist trapped, while subtly communicating – through expression and vocal inflection – the resilience and mental strength of this remarkable woman. It’s one of her most intimate performances, which at moments can be almost unbearably moving.
Claudel’s fellow inmates, many played by physically disabled actors, bring rich life to the scenes set in the halls of the asylum, while Jean-Luc Vincent’s Paul is all mannered tics and frustrating restraint, a man seemingly unable to comprehend the situation of his own sister. A remarkable and important film that pays due tribute to this most tortured of artists.