Wednesday, July 2, 2014

‘Violette’ When Women Dare to Write

By Jose Alberto Hermosillo
 
Violette poster Courtesy of Adopt Films
“Violette” is a majestic trip to the past. It chronicles the infatuated life of a woman who changed the world's literature forever. This story is told with elegance enlighting the big screen with beauty.

“Violette” is the biopic of Violette Leduc, a passionate French writer who was bold enough to dare to tell stories about women’s intimate desires in a poetic form.

As Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz did centuries ago in Mexico, Violette takes her personal frustrations, complexes, and low self-esteem into her writings. 

Violette was the first woman who dares to write about taboo topics such as sexual experiences with other school girls, masturbation, abortion, eroticism, and sensuality as no other women had done it before, with no fear, no pity. 

Her dreams separate from her body - chased by the ghost of her past.

Every rejection is an excuse to evoke her prose full of magic - bursting her intense emotions and clear thoughts.

“The ugliness in a woman is a mortal sin. If you are beautiful you turn heads for your beauty. If you are ugly, you turn heads for your ugliness.” This is how the movie starts.

A few years have passed after the World War II. Food and goods are still in high demand. Violette dares to go out to the black market and look for supplies. She and her useless and abusive husband don’t make a happy couple - it was a fixed marriage.

He’s a man with nothing to live for. She is a survivor. He needs a reader. She needs to express herself.

Violette's troubled childhood - the father who abandoned her, her mother neglected her. The elements that made her feel like “bastard” will stand out later in her works.

Desperate for love, she must keep her emotions and memories in writing. 

The poetry sets in motion. First, she has learned to love herself a little.

After the separation from her "husband," in her grimy new place, in Paris, her mother will tell her: “The war is over and you are still living like you are a thief.”

The first line she wrote was a powerful one: “My mother never held my hand.” It is how her book “In the Prison of her Skin” starts.


Violette is always falling for the wrong men and the wrong women. She is obsessed with them begging for love.
Photo courtesy of Adopt Films
Beautifully shot, the film's polished scenery, locations, interiors, and props are just outstanding.

"Violette's" cinematography is minimalist, it moves accordingly to the character’s emotions:

For example, when Violette is searching for love, everything is dark, grim, obscure, and in detriment. When she writes, everything is full of light with warm colors, open windows, landscapes, trees, flowers, water, and life.


Sometimes, she becomes a mere spectator of her own story, bringing back all those memories that inspired her books. 
Photo courtesy of Adopt Films
Simone de Beauvoir (Sandrine Kiberlain), the polemic writer who has written a story about a ménage a trois will be the most influential person in her life, her muse, and platonic love. 

She is a hard-core feminist who thinks: “Marriage is an imposition. For most women, it’s slavery.” She adds: “Women will never be free without economic freedom. There is a long way to go.” 

Simone’s rejection will be a major turning point in this story that later will pay off.

The actress, Emmanuelle Devos (“A Christmas Tale,” “Kings & Queen”) does an impeccable performance as poor little Violette. Her character is as obsessive as the painter “Séraphine.” Violette has to learn to write from the pain in her soul, the painter learned to paint from the pain in her body. 

Both extraordinary films about women were made by director Martin Provost. Both have similar emotions and perfect depictions of female characters, at different historic times.

The film is divided into many interconnected chapters. 

“You don’t love me because I am ugly,” Violette says. “Screaming and sobbing won’t get you anywhere, writing will,” Simone replies.

Time passes by and she is alone, always alone - “C’est moi Violette?” The eroticism in her books will soon find followers and detractors.

Now, thanks to historians and to this film, some of the precursors of the women’s movement in the 1960’s will be remembered.

With women like Violette and Simone, the laws in France (and in other countries) changed, giving to the “second sex” the right to work, drive, take decisions, to be equal, and to be free for the generations to come.

There are several films about female writers that transcend in film history: “Reaching for the Moon,”  “Henry and June,” “Miss Parker and the Vicious Circle,” “My Brilliant Career,” “Gaby: A true Story,” “Becoming Jane,” “Leonie,” “Sylvia,” “Julia,” “Miss Potter,” among others.

What fascinates me more about "Violette," is the character arc. It’s how we met her in the beginning and how much she will grow at the very end. She’ll gain confidence and self-respect with so subtle that makes us feel good about it. That is the perfect combination of all the elements that compose this excellent movie – acting, directing, cinematography, writing, music.


The audience raved for “Violette” at the Los Angeles Film Festival to a standing ovation. Now, you must decide if you will reject or let “Violette” seduce you with her life in writing.    
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