Berthe Morisot (2012)

Berthe Morisot
Director: Caroline Champetier
Writer: Sylvie Meyer, Philippe Lasry
Based on: Beth Archer Brombert’s book Manet: Rebel in a Frock Coat
Cast: Marine Delterme, Malik Zidi, Alice Butaud, Bérangère Bonvoisin, Patrick Descamps, François Dieuaide, Jeanne Gogny, Grégory Gadebois
Seen on: 31.12.2021

Berthe Morisot (Marine Delterme) and her sister Edma (Alice Butaud) are both very interested in painting, a passion they can both pursue as long as they stay unmarried. And that is something that they plan on. When a painting by Édouard Manet (Malik Zidi) scandalizes pretty much everyone, they are both intrigued, both by the painting and the man. Much to Edma’s disappointment, though, Manet shows more interest in Berthe.

Berthe Morisot is an overall well-made film about a woman who is often forgotten by art history. Unfortunately it seems more interested in her relationship with a man than in her person or her work.

The film poster showing Berthe Morisot (Marine Delterme) painting at the beach. The sea behind her dissolves into an impressionist painting.

I didn’t know that the film was based on a book about Manet himself. That certainly explains in part why the film seems so very focused on him, despite being called Berthe Morisot. But it is frustrating regardless, because so often biographies of important women revolve around the men that influenced them or the men they love and/or have relationships with, while in biographies about men, women are usually just a footnote.

In the beginning, my hopes were high that this would not be that kind of film – at first, it is all about Berthe and Edma and how tight their relationship is. But it appears that this was only a set-up so the film could make Manet into that much more of a wedge between them. And after Edma marries, she pretty much disappears from Berthe’s life.

Berthe Morisot (Marine Delterme) standing on the beach, looking out over the sea.

Even if that narrative frame was a little disappointing, the rest of the film was very well-made. It’s a TV movie without a huge budget, but the sets and costumes look really good. And above all, Delterme, Butaud and Zidi are a charismatic throuple at the center of the film. Plus, Morisot was certainly an interesting woman who deserves to be remembered more and better than she is. And the film is at least a step in the right direction in that regard.

Berthe Morisot (Marine Delterme) practicing her painting in the museum.

Summarizing: not bad.

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