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Borden, D. (2019). Clouds of Sils Maria Directed by Olivier Assayas CG Cinéma et al.: 2014, 124 min.. Fort Da, 25(1):87-95.

(2019). Fort Da, 25(1):87-95

Film Review Essay

Clouds of Sils Maria Directed by Olivier Assayas CG Cinéma et al.: 2014, 124 min.

Review by:
Diane Borden, Ph.D.

Being, Time, and Personal Assistance: Hiking in the Alps with Juliette Binoche

[B]ecome who you are — Pindar, Nietzsche, Heidegger

A first viewing of Olivier Assayas's Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) might initially create bewilderment for the viewer. But, as the narrative unfolds, images of the sublime, the mysterious, and a kind of haunting push the storyline toward a complex psychological and philosophical conclusion. We ask at the closure of the film if the work intends to be ambiguous, a resolution, a triumph, or, in philosophical terms, an aporia.

Assayas and Juliette Binoche, who had worked together in previous films, mutually agreed to plan aspects of the script, location, and theme. Soon after its release, it was issued in a Criterion DVD Edition, signaling that it, in fact, was already recognized as a classic of world cinema. On the surface, the film is about Maria Enders (Binoche), an internationally known actress, going through a mid-life crisis, accompanied by Valentine (Kristen Stewart), her Personal Assistant who goes by “Val.”

At the conclusion of the narrative, Maria is forced to work as the older character in her signature play, Maloja Snake, with a younger actress, Jo-Ann (Chloë Grace Moretz), playing Maria's original part, evidently with limited talent and abundant scandal.

Assayas divides the narrative into three very different temporalities, with three very different spatial containers.

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