Friday, 20 April 2018
Clouds of Sils Maria
This a clever and heavyweight drama that requires a high level of engagement from viewers if they are to be rewarded with anything beyond seeing the beautiful Swiss Alps and Juliette Binoche. It is a story dominated by female characters who are portrayed through very strong performances, especially Kirsten Stewart who plays Valentine, the PA of Maria whose role is inhabited by Juliette Binoche. Maria is a famous actress who is able to pick and choose her projects.
This is not a film for casual viewing. Although the narrative is strong, this film is character driven and the intensity of the performances demand engagement with the story. Without going into plot detail, as the film develops, the boundary between reality and the script of a possible future project becomes blurred. This invited me to make all kinds of assumptions about where it was going - some of my assumptions were right but not all of them. As I said, this is a clever film.
The centre piece is not necessarily the context the characters find themselves within, or even the location of Sils Maria in Switzerland's Engadine but the emotions the characters feel as fate propels them onwards. Fear, jealousy, ambition, regret, aversion to ageing, love and hate all play out in a tangled web of intrigue and while some are fully indulged, others are restrained but the reasons behind the decisions why, are unclear - at least to me. Why people take certain decisions rather than others when options are available is left unanswered in this film. Perhaps it is the volatile fragility of 'performers' who only feel as loved as their last good review that drives Maria to make the choices she does. Are 'performers' any different to non-performers?
If you want to watch a film that offers top drawer acting, beautiful settings and an exploration of human emotions, then spending 2 hours watching this will reward you. If your tastes are otherwise, my suggestion would be to avoid it. I'm glad I stuck it out as the more I have reflected on it over the past couple of days, the more depth I have discovered in it. I'll give it 7/10.