Originally from Villeneuve in Picardy, Camille Claudel, born 1864, was a French sculptor and graphic artist and the sister of poet and diplomat Paul Claudel. She was at first a student and then became the mistress of fellow sculptor Auguste Rodin for 15 years until she left him in 1895. In 1913 following her father’s death and after living a solitary life shut away in her studio, her metal state was allegedly deteriorating and her family decided to commit her to a metal institution, one at first near Paris before moving to Southern France.
|....as played by Juliette Binoche.|
Written and directed by Bruno Dumont, who you may know from his 2011 movie Hors Satan, a film I can highly recommend if you have not seen it already, Camille Claudel 1915 (2013) is loosely based on the work and letters of Paul Claudel and the medical records of Camille. Our story starts in 1915, hence the title. We find Camille in Montdevergues Asylum near Avignon. Two nuns are forcing her to bath; she is then escorted back to her room. After she gets dressed she makes her way to the kitchen where she is allowed to prepare her own food. We discover the reason for this unusual privilege is she lives in fear of being poisoned, its not quite clear if her paranoia extends to her ex-lover or her family – or both? Being surrounded by mental patients, who appear to be in a far worse state than she is, does not help her, neither does the Psychiatrist in charge of the asylum who refuses to see the evidence in front of him and is totally influenced by Camille’s family who its obvious want her locked away.
Although the Doctor recommended to her brother that she was ready to leave the asylum a number of times, she was to spend the last 29 years of her life in residence at Montdevergues. Her brother who died in 1955 was to continue to visit her but did not attend his sister’s funeral. She died on October 19th 1943 aged 79 and was buried in a group vault meaning that her remains can never be reclaimed.
The camera rarely leaves the face of the mesmerising Juliette Binoche who bravely portrays Camille Claudel completely with out makeup, gaunt and thin and dressed throughout the movie in the drab asylum clothing. Because of her superb representation of this character you will be able to empathise with her loneliness, abandoned by both friends and family. A moving depiction of a talented woman who gets involuntarily locked up in a mental institution. Not to be missed.