Camille Claudel (Juliette Binoche) was and artist, the sister of Paul Claudel (Jean-Luc Vincent) and a lover of Auguste Rodin. But after the break-up with Rodin, her family had her commited to an asylum where she now spends her days amidst people with mental disabilities, convinced that people are trying to poison her. When she hears that her brother plans a visit, she puts all her hope in him releasing her.
Holy crap, Camille Claudel 1915 was booo-ring. Despite Binoche’s wonderful acting, it didn’t take long for me to wish that the movie would turn out to be a short film. But it wasn’t and so I suffered.
The movie was shot with actual residents of what the institution has become in the last 100 years. Which is something I would generally applaud. There are way too few people with handicaps on screen and it’s important that they’re represented. Unfortunately it felt like this film was less representing them than presenting them in a freakshow. There are awkward zooms, we get reaction shots of the people but not what they’re reacting to, making them feel alien and unrelatable.
And having Camille be the only person there with a mental illness and not a handicap made things even weirder. Maybe that’s historically accurate but one would wonder why would that be so? That it was just put out there like this seems to conflate the two things which are different indeed (and its important to distinguish because otherwise you can’t even think of the possibility that a person with a mental handicap might also be ill).
And then to make this boring mess even worse, Paul Claudel shows up. The movie immediately jumps to his perspective (as if it was impossible to stay with Camille now that a man had shown up in the movie) and we get a religious sermon, courtesy of bigotted Christian fanaticism. Thanks, but no thanks. Really.
Two things I don’t regret about buying a ticket for this movie. One: Juliette Binoche’s performance. Two: it made me read up on the real Camille Claudel who had a tragic, fascinating life.