Camille Claudel 1915

Film Review by Josh Slater-Williams | 16 Jun 2014
  • Camille Claudel 1915
Film title: Camille Claudel 1915
Director: Bruno Dumont
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Jean-Luc Vincent
Release date: 20 Jun

The contemporary king of grim French cinema, director Bruno Dumont’s latest, the stark Camille Claudel 1915, is based on personal letters and medical records regarding the lengthy institutionalisation of Camille Claudel (Binoche), the former sculptor who developed schizophrenia.

The film follows Camille through her daily banalities, as a stellar Binoche conveys subtleties in even the most vacant stares. Dumont’s casting of non-actors with mental illness doesn’t come across as exploitative as it sounds in theory, though there’s an occasional emphasis on ‘otherness’ conveyed through extended shots of Claudel’s resigned reactions to her fellow inmates’ peculiarities that certainly aggravates.

The film stops dead in its tracks with the introduction of stout Catholic brother Paul Claudel (Vincent), a curious result considering that the minimal drama the film has stems from whether his promised visit will actually take place. His extensive intellectual rhapsodising veers the film away from its more complicated and compelling look at a troubled woman silently struggling with how both society and her health have shaped her fate. [Josh Slater-Williams]