Maria, an internationally esteemed actress (Juliette Binoche), is asked to join the cast of the stage production that first made her famous, but this time as the older mentor character that is taken advantage of by a younger employee (the role she first played).
Olivier Assayas (who directed the exquisite “Summer Hours”), as he does with all his best work, contemplates the transient nature of our relationships with others and ourselves, but this time uses the titular cloud formations (an unexplained phenomenon that finds far-away clouds making their way to the valleys of the Alps) as both commentary on human nature and a visage of the divine.
Contemplative yet full of humor (Assayas has some fun with mocking Hollywood productions, but also pays tribute to how they can subvert their own limitations), “Clouds of Sils Maria” is a visually accomplished meta-journey as an actress draws unwanted connections to her character.
Kristin Stewart shares the screen with Binoche as her younger, personal assistant who helps her run lines in preparation for the play. As Maria struggles to get into the skin of the older character, their rehearsals together dissolve the thread between the play and reality. Stewart bucks the criticism and uses her signature apathy as a mysterious weapon in this role hand-made for her.
Some themes are particularly slow to develop, and the meat of what Assayas is getting at is less immediately digestible than in his past films, but the characters remind us that art is interpreted different as the observer changes, matures, and grows. “Clouds” is one to revisit – it is designed to be viewed from the perspective of both the older and younger characters and will be particularly enriching to experience from both sides of life.
7.5 out of 10 pointsReturn to CIFF 2014 Coverage
English, French, German
2 hr. 4 min.
Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz, Lars Eidinger, Johnny Flynn