Violette – Movie Review by Frank L.
Directed by Martin Provost
Writers: Martin Provost (screenplay), Marc Abdelnour (screenplay),
Stars: Emmanuelle Devos, Sandrine Kiberlain, Olivier Gourmet
Violette Leduc was born illegitimate in 1907 in North Western France. By the time of her death from cancer in 1962 she was an acclaimed novelist. This film tracks her story from the middle of the second world war, when she is living in rural France eking out an existence with the novelist Maurice Sachs, who had no interest in the female sex. It was a fraught relationship. Violette is a needy person who demands a great deal of the people with whom she comes into contact. Simone de Beauvoir recognised her talent and encouraged her to keep writing. Also de Beauvoir, who was beginning to become a financial success, supported surreptitiously Violette with a monthly cheque so as to keep the unstable Violette on some sort of an even keel.
The film is divided, like a novel, into chapters each with a title, the first is “Maurice Sachs”. This gives a literary structure to the film which works well as does the reading of various passages from the novels which encapsulate and highlight the various emotional turmoils which Violette is enduring. There are many of these as she lives her self obsessed life. However she does invoke a certain respect and her vulnerability is palpable. Violette is played by Emmanuelle Devos and it is a compelling performance. She is ably assisted by Sandrine Kiberlain’s Simone de Beauvoir who together have many revelatory conversations as de Beauvoir forces Violette to recognise that the only way out of her various problems is through her writing. The world in which they live is peppered with the Parisian intelligentsia of Sartre, Camus, Genet and the like but for all these high powered figures Provost notes how simple and spartan were the domestic arrangements of life in Paris for these emerging titans of French Culture. The film terminates when Violette is beginning to receive the critical and consequent financial acclaim of the French public which she craved.
Violette’s life was a life bravely led and this film may encourage a new generation to read her works and the works of Simone de Beauvoir also. They were important influences in the latter half of the last century. An impressive piece of work about a fairly emotionally angular woman.