Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)

Clouds of Sils Maria
Director: Olivier Assayas
Writer: Olivier Assayas
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz, Lars Eidinger, Brady Corbet, Nora von Waldstätten

20 years ago, Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) became a famous actress for her part in the play Maloja Snake, in which she played Sigrid, a young woman who seduces the older Helena. Now Maria is on her way to receive an award on behalf of the writer and director of the play. But before she arrives, she is informed that he passed away. Maria is shocked by the news. In that vulnerable state, her assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) tells Maria that up and coming director Klaus Diesterweg (Lars Eidinger) would like to remake Maloja Snake – with Maria as Helena and Hollywood starlet Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloë Grace Moretz) as Sigrid. Despite her trepidations about the role, Maria accepts the offer.

Clouds of Sils Maria was absolutely fantastic, if slightly long. It was interesting, intelligent, beautifully shot and above all, wonderfully acted.


Juliette Binoche is very much at the center of the film, which, as usual, is a good thing. Her Maria isn’t always easy. She’s judgemental and self-centered, but she’s also warm, vulnerable and you can see her effort of honestly trying to work out her life and her role. And Binoche has an amazing presence, bringing the character completely to life. (Also, how rare is it to get not only such a complex, well-rounded character, but one who is also a middle-aged woman?)

Neither Kristen Stewart, nor Chloë Grace Moretz stand much of a chance against Binoche (not that it is a competition), but they, too, have far more to work with in their characters than is the case usually and both do a really good job with that. Especially the relationship between Valentine and Maria thrives on both characters and performances, so much so that I would be surprised, if Binoche and Stewart hadn’t hit it off in real life as well.

clouds-of-sils-maria1Assayas created a film that studies its characters as closely as Maria studies Helena to try and understand how she can relate to her instead of Sigrid (it was also a fascinating insight into the work of actors and actresses). And that is not the only way the film mirrors the play it is about. The relationships between Valentine and Maria, but also Maria and Jo-Ann show twisted fragments of the relationship between Sigrid and Helena. Some of the layers probably only become apparent on second or third watch.

There were some surprisingly funny moments there as well – I especially enjoyed the X-Men spoof Jo-Ann stars in. At one point the film almost veers into the fantastical which I enjoyed as well. In short, the film isn’t all high meta concept, so there are enough things to keep you interested even if you don’t like that kind of stuff. But if you do like it, it will make you even happier.

clouds-of-sils-maria2Summarizing: Excellent.

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