Film Review – Clouds of Sils Maria
Clouds of Sils Maria
Clouds of Sils Maria has been on my radar since Kristen Stewart became attached to it. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year and now it finally is released to American audiences from IFC Films.
Clouds of Sils Maria central character is Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche), a famous actress who broke into acting by chance at 18 as the young starlet in famed playwright Wilhelm Melchoir’s Maloja Snake. The film opens on Maria and her personal assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) traveling to a tribute to Wilhelm. The course of the tribute changes dramatically as Wilhelm dies before that night comes. Maria is thrown emotionally by this loss, her beloved Wilhelm. The second part of the film focuses on Maria taking on the older role in Maloja Snake, versus the young role she became famous for. She prepares for the role with Valentine at Sils Maria, Wilhelm’s home. The third part of the film is the culmination and execution of this revival of the play.
This review will not sound even one bit as complicated or as intelligent as Clouds of Sils Maria. The big connection between the play, the roles of Sigrid and Helena, seduction, need, envy, and love are mirrored in the personal and work relationship between Maria and Valentine. Furthermore, Maria and Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloë Grace Moretz), who will play the role of Sigrid in the revival of the play, is very much a mirror of the self-destruction and superiority. I can only imagine the relationship between an actress and her personal assistant is a difficult one. The personal assistant is so involved in every aspect of their life that boundaries are certain to be crossed.
Kristen Stewart obviously pulled from her personal life to play Valentine. Regardless if she has a personal assistant of her own, interacting with other actors and their assistants informed her incredibly in her role. Stewart’s casual look and un-brushed hair mixes well with the hectic schedule of Maria. It reminds you that the focus is never on Valentine, but Maria. Maria depends on Valentine, more than she would ever admit. The strong connection and trust is evident between these two actors. Both Binoche and Stewart are well-informed by life experience to play their roles. Stewart made such an impression as Valentine that she is the first American actress to win the French Cesar Award.
Clouds of Sils Maria is a triumph in acting, creativeness, and continuing the dialog in ageism in films. I will admit to not catching on early that this film is about a play, not a film, as well as the many non-fictitious elements. Along with the classical music soundtrack and the scenery of the Swiss mountains, it is a beautiful film. The film is over two hours and it is not a relax and forget about it film experience. It has multiple layers and themes that are not shouted to the audience. Director Olivier Assayas played his cards close to his chest; it is not an overt, two-sided relationship full of blatant overtures of friendship and love. It is something I am still processing over a week after seeing it. It is a film that will have you thinking about the connections and allusions long after the closing credits start to roll.