2014 drama film “Clouds of Sils Maria”.
Written and directed by Olivier Assayas.
Starring Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart and Chloë Grace Moretz.
The film is a German-French-Swiss co-production. It was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and it was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Shown in Kino Sõprus.
The film, divided into two parts and one epilogue, tells the story of Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche), a successful actress. She owes her career to the film adaptation of the play Maloja Snake by Wilhelm Melchior, that launched her career 20 years earlier. The play focuses on a tempestuous relationship between two women: Sigrid, an ambitious young girl, seduces and drives to suicide Helena, an older woman, who is also her boss. As the film opens, Maria is travelling with her assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) to Zurich to accept an award on behalf of Melchior. While she is planning to visit him in the following days, she learns of his sudden death. During the awards ceremony, Maria is approached by Klaus Diesterweg, a popular theatre director, who wants to persuade her to act in the same play again but this time in the role of the older woman. Certainly, this is the central point of the film: from here starts the gradual metamorphosis of the main character.
While Maria is preparing for her role in Wilhelm’s house in the middle of the mountains of Sils Maria, Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young Hollywood starlet who used to be involved in scandals, is called to play the role of Sigrid. This is what upsets Maria and she seems to become involved in a metaphorical triangle between two other women, both the reflection of herself. Valentine, on one hand, represents her rational side, her reference point and psychological support; Jo-Ann Ellis, on the other (whom she knows through Google searches) is a kind of mirror for her, she is what she was in the past or what she always dreamed to be. Then, Maria begins to show her fragilities. Being unable to accept the new role, she manifests to be unable to accept herself, her possible limits and the changes that life brings. However, it is not a coincidence that the director decided to shoot the scenes related to the interiority of Maria in the middle of the mountains surrounding the little village, clearly in contrast with the previous set, more stylish and refined, connected with the self-confidence that the main character used to display before.
Assayas has been influenced by the particularities of the valley of Sils Maria, especially in the autumn months when, due to special weather phenomena, the clouds take the shape of a snake. Maria and Valentine are totally immersed in this particular landscape, sometimes fascinating, sometimes disturbing, forced to come face-to-face both with each other and with themselves. In these central scenes we can recognize some extracts from the 1924 documentary of Arnold Fanck, better known as Das Wolkenphanomen of Maloja (“The snake of Maloja”). And we can also think about an implicit reference to the first draft of the Eternal Recurrence, one of the most famous essays by Friedrich Nietzsche, where he describes his first experience in Sils Maria as “that place 6000 feet above the sea and above all that is human”. In fact, while the two women are walking in the middle of the mountains trying to act the script together, Valentine mysteriously disappears. (Probably she decides to leave, as though she is trying to get away from Maria and their ambiguous, almost unhealthy, relationship). Then, the “snake” appears to Maria for the first time and she stays alone, quite disturbed, in front of it. The odd shape reminds her the ghosts of the past, the same with which all of us deal.
In this sense we can define the movie as a movie of internal puzzles that hints at something obscure just around the corner. However, to sum it up, the closing part of the movie seems to show the opposite. Maria meets Jo-Ann Ellis face-to-face, but the intensity in the relationship of the characters that balanced the movie before is not there anymore.
In conclusion, this last work of Assayas is a great psychological research, full of cinematic and literary references, a hint to reflect about the complexity and beauty of the human identity.
Giulia Oro: film "Clouds of Sils Maria"
2014 drama film “Clouds of Sils Maria”.