Camille Claudel 1915
by Domenico La Porta
- Bruno Dumont turns Juliette Binoche into a sick Camille Claudel, totally possessed by a character who stands out in the competition of the 63rd Berlinale.
To tell Camille Claudel’s story, Bruno Dumont uses two brief explanations at the beginning and end of his movie. In the middle, there's no question of offering a biopic of the sculptor; instead, he relates the isolation of a woman who “is no longer a human creature” and who suffers from her separation both emotional (from her family, her ex-lover) and physical (her workshop, tools and artwork). As the year in the title indicates, Camille Claudel 1915 [+see also:
interview: Bruno Dumont
film profile] captures an instant in the life of the artist who was Rodin’s student and mistress, but who spent 29 years of her life imprisoned in an asylum where she died in 1943.
Rid of the sexuality and violence we have become used to, the director of Hors Satan [+see also:
film profile] nevertheless imposes his own rhythm on the competition of this 63rd Berlinale with an austere film which depicts a very short period – just a few days –, expanding it to reveal the weight of each second. Dumont’s cinema thus remains intact, disturbing. To nourish the screenplay, Bruno Dumont used medical records and letters between Camille and her brother Paul (Jean-Luc Vincent), who comes to visit once during the movie. In a parallel segment, Paul makes this visit a step in his own journey towards Faith, and apart from his monologue and four or five pages of dialogue linked to Camille, very little is said during the film. The director therefore limits any impression of a recited text, something he has always tried to avoid in all his films and his work with amateur actors. He thus filmed the movie in a real asylum with its patients and staff, who wander around Juliette Binoche, possessed by Camille Claudel’s character, fraught by pain, illuminations and extinctions. The actress – who is the same age as Camille – delivers a demanding performance, based on a precise idea of the emotional state of the character, though freely improvised. It is the first time that Bruno Dumont has worked with a star, which is maybe why this film stands out as much from his filmography as from that of the actress, who was the first to approach the director to work with him.
Camille Claudel 1915 does not allow itself many contrivances in order to exist in a kind of minimalism in which each detail is capable of influencing a shot. Camille’s distress is palpable, irascible or silent, just like the hope symbolized by Paul’s visit. Our contemplation of the movie involves a certain reflexion about Art – paradoxically, without any art – and about Faith. Questions are raised about the limits between Sacred and Profane, the ritualization of misery suffered by a woman who is locked away, even when she is, quite evidently, the sanest of all the patients.
(Translated from French)
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