I went along to the Watershed yesterday afternoon to see my first film since my hip operation… only now can I face the prospect of sitting on a non-raised seat for 90 minutes or so! The film in question was Bruno Dumont’s “Camille Claudel 1915” starring one of my favourite actors, Juliette Binoche. It tells the harrowing story of the celebrated and gifted sculptor Camille Claudel, one-time protégé and lover of Auguste Rodin, who was committed to an asylum in 1913 by her younger brother Paul, following the death of her father. Claudel appeals impotently against her imprisonment – where her claims of persecution are seen as proof of her “madness” (alleged poisoning of her food, abandonment by her family and theft of her art by Rodin). The film deals with just three days of her life in the asylum – at a time when she still had hope of being released. Tragically, she lived in confinement for 30 years until her death in 1943.The film is based on Claudel’s medical records and the letters between her and her sanctimonious brother (who, according to Wikipedia, visited her just 7 times in 30 years) and, somewhat controversially, is filmed in a French asylum, using actual residents as the supporting cast – and their presence acts to underline the unfairness of Claudel’s incarceration.
It’s a tragic, upsetting but quite brilliant film. Binoche gives a simply stunningly performance.