Monday, November 05, 2018

Camille Claudel, 1915

This beautiful, haunting and poignant film takes place in an asylum for the insane during a few days in 1915.  The sculptor Camille Claudel, already in the asylum for many years, waits for a rare visit from her brother, the philosopher Paul Claudel.The backstory of how she came to be there is only alluded to. The film Camille Claudel (1988) provides a graphic depiction of that. This film focuses on the experience of a woman who has been abandoned by her family and lives in an environment that feels like a prison to her. The contrast between her intelligent and sensitive bearing and the behavior of the other inmates may seem exaggerated, but having spent many hours on a back ward of an American state hospital, I found it painfully familiar. The film is about loneliness. The contrast between Camille's  demeanor before and after she learns that her brother is going to visit  conveys her agony more forcefully than the moments where she breaks down into tears. Her brother's self absorption and indifference to her suffering locks the door that confines her. The slow pace of the film makes it hard to sit through, but succeeds in drawing the viewer into Camille's life.  The performance by Juliet Binoche as Camille is simply riveting.

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