Review: Time drags slowly in artistic asylum

By Peter Calder

'Camille Claudel 1915' starring Juliette Binoche.
'Camille Claudel 1915' starring Juliette Binoche.

Formally rigorous and supremely controlled, this wonderfully designed and costumed biographical drama by the austere and provocative Dumont moves so slowly it can seem to be happening in real time.

In artistic terms, that makes it something of an achievement, but if you are not keenly interested in life in a French mental asylum in the early 20th century, you may find it drags a little (a little bit of watching a madwoman watch a pot boil goes a long way).

Binoche, who makes quite magnificent speeches in long, single takes, turns in work as good as anything she has done in the title role of a woman we would now diagnose with paranoid schizophrenia.

A noted sculptor and sometime lover of Auguste Rodin, she was confined to various institutions for the last 30 of her 80 years; this film, as its title suggests, looks at one of those 30, early in her internment.

It is based on medical records and correspondence, the latter plainly serving as the raw material for dialogue that often sounds forced and stilted.

Dumont has cast wonderful faces in a film that at times looks like the work of a Flemish master. But it feels less like drama than biographical material for those with specialist interest.

Camille Claudel 1915

Stars: 2/5
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Jean-Luc Vincent, Robert Leroy, Emmanuel Kauffman
Director: Bruno Dumont
Running time: 95 mins Rating: M (adult themes) In French with English subtitles
Verdict: Oozes quality but not a lot else.

- NZ Herald

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