In Review: Clouds of Sils Maria on DVD

by Linsey Satterthwaite on 29/07/2015


The idea of age and identity for actresses, particularly in Hollywood, has become a (sore) talking point in recent times. Stories of women being deemed too old for roles, when their male counterparts are allowed to indulge, are rife in the business and unless you are Meryl Streep, there are few interesting parts for females of a ‘certain age’. Director Oliver Assayas manages to take an intellectual look at this issue with Clouds of Sils Maria as well as giving his leading actress Juliette Binoche the kind of deep, nuanced role that is scarcely seen in mainstream films.

Maria Enders (Binoche), a respected actress, is travelling to the Swiss Alps with her personal assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) in tow to collect an award on behalf of the reclusive playwright she owes her career to. His play Maloja Snake, about a young woman who seduces her boss Helena and drives her to destruction, made Maria a star in both stage and screen versions however she is asked to take part in a new adaptation of the play, this time as Helena. At first reluctant, Maria accepts the role, her inability to let go of something so intrinsic to her, and she holes herself up with Valentine in a cabin at the titular Sils Maria to rehearse. As they study the play, it begins to reflect their lives and their different perspectives; themes of age and identity form then dissipate like the clouds that linger over the hills.

It is a beautifully layered performance by Binoche, deeply defiant yet peppered with melancholy. However it is Stewart who really impresses, dispelling any cynicism about her acting ability that may have been warranted by the Twilight movies, she is smart and assured with a subtle wink to post modern fame. The frisson between the two actresses is a joy to behold in a film that is unafraid to be profound and which values character above spectacle, something which is often severely lacking in this cinematic age.

Extras: An interview with writer/director Oliver Assayas, who reveals that the film was specifically written with Binoche in mind.

Linsey has awarded Clouds of Sils Maria on DVD four Torches of Truth

4 torches

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