Watching Olivier Assayas’s ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’ gave me a deja vu! It was something like the ‘Birdman’ and much like ‘Maps to the stars’. I liked maps to the stars better. But despite all these similarities, there’s something else with the sils maria that makes you love it on a different level. It is more poignant and and is not a satire like the other two. So yeah, it’s a different film and gives you a different sense of satisfaction. But it ain’t anywhere near perfect. And the last time I watched Kirsten Stewart, she was mastering the art of stoicalness to perfection in the Twilight series. Whoever thinks she is a terrible actor, should see this film. I mean, it totally changed my perception of her. She’s subtle and well controlled. And no wonder she went onto to win the Cesar award for best supporting actress this year. Though Juliette Binoche gave a seasoned performance, it was Stewart who stood out.
Sils Maria is similar to Birdman in the sense that the protagonist is in a process of reinventing himself/herself from the illusionary world. While Birdman did it sarcastically, Sils Maria took the normal path. And when I say it’s much like the maps to the stars, because both the films revolve around an aging and fading actress and her personal assistant. While Havana Segrand in maps to the stars, played by Julianne Moore was shadowed by the fame of her mother, Maria Enders(Juliette Binoche) is a baffled star who doesn’t know what she wants. She’s having a hard time accepting the fact that she’s no more that young, talented and beautiful actress that she was once. And more to her torment, she’s hit with the sad news of the demise of her mentor Melchior.
Maria rose to the stardom with her iconic portrayal of Sigird in a very popular movie and play ‘ Maloja Snake’, directed by Melchior. That was twenty years back. And now as she’s in Sils maria, she’s being approached by a rising theatre director, with a chance to appear once again in the play that made her famous way back then. But there’s more to it. She is not gonna play Sigrid, but that of the bewildered and aged ‘Helena’. She understands that she can’t no more play the young and vibrant Sigird, but at the same time feels that she’s too vulnerable to take up the role of Helena. She’s then persuaded and encouraged by her personal assistant Valentine( Stewart) to take up the offer. Valentine has her own opinions. She has a different idea of the play and each characters. As the movie progresses, we see an evolving Valentine, whose opinions become more sharp and straight. She loves the modern films and the trending pop culture. She even finds Maria’s acting a tad academic and how it not connects with the audience, as there’s a thin veil of artificiality. Valentine is tired of Maria’s authority.
And soon into the middle of the film, one would feel the overlapping between reality and the artificial world of Sigrid and Helena. It’s too obvious where the film is leading.’ Maleja Snake’, as the play is called in the film, is a natural phenomenon of cloud formation in the hills of Sils Maria in the form of a snake. It is a significant reference throughout the film. And Valentine breaks out from the shackles of Maria, as they are on the way to witness the Maleja Snake. She just disappears. She’s never seen again. Though one could interpret that she might have committed suicide by jumping off the hills, it’s much more evident that she just moved on to a different life. Because that’s what one would gather from the conversation they had a few minutes before, when Valentine opposes Maria’s interpretation that Helena probably committed suicide while she went for the hike. And that’s when you really fill the dots as even Melchior was said to have committed suicide, as he went for a hike. Its a reference that fate is not sparing anyone. As valentine left her, Maria finally managed to move on. And into the final moments of the film, we witness a Maria who has reinvented herself. And that’s where Maleja Snake’s formation becomes complete. A feat that wouldn’t have materialized if Valentine and Maria were together. Valentine and Maria is one and the same, just like the opposite sides of the same coin. And it’s mandatory to keep aside one side to have a clear view on the other one. But the other side too has a clear interpretation, just from another view. Valentine’s Maleja Snake might have materialized somewhere else. Everyone’s Maleja Snake takes full formation as he/she reinvents herself.
Clouds of Sils Maria sure makes for a compelling watch. It is a beautifully directed film with some amazing performances.
My Rating: 7.5/10