TIFF 2014 Review: Clouds of Sils Maria
Olivier Assayas’ new film exemplifies the elegance of its leading star Juliette Binoche, who portrays a legendary stage actress at the pinnacle of her career. Gaining fame at a young age for her portrayal of a young girl who has an affair with an older woman, 20 years later she is approached to star in a new production of the play, taking the opposite role. This creates inner conflict for Maria (Juliette Binoche), who is fearful of facing her age and coming to terms with the character she was at odds with the first time around. She does not want to re-interpret the play from the opposing perspective because of the truth it may reveal about herself in the present, potentially tainting a memory from her past.
There’s more to it, however, as her relationship with her assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart), also mirrors the themes of the play. Maria and Valentine have an intimate relationship, composed of respect and admiration from Valentine’s end, and reliance and support on Maria’s end. However, as the film progresses, the tension between these two characters reaches new heights as their relationship becomes nearly as challenging of that of Sigrid and Helena in the play.
Acting as a grand metaphor both for the play within the film and for the real life personas of Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart and Chloe Grace Moretz, Clouds of Sils Maria is a deeply self-aware film that makes a grand commentary on Hollywood, the state of celebrity, and the trueness and falsity of relationships within this culture. Featuring stunning and lived in performances from both Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart, who truly showcases her acting ability in the film as she is perfectly cast, Clouds of Sils Maria is subtle but deep. This is a film that will linger on and become more and more fulfilling as you ponder over its many themes and questions.