“Clouds of Sils Maria” is a film about how time, age, ego, and culture affect one’s perspective. As a director, screenwriter, and film critic, Olivier Assayas created decent works such as “Something in the Air” and “Non-Fiction”. In this film, we see a successful major actress, Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche), and her assistant, Valentine (Kristen Stewart), reporting one of the writers to receive an award. The strong bonds between Maria and Valentine were created. It’s not just an assistant and boss relationship. They are as if they are best friends.
As a personal assistant, Valentine isn’t too skilled at organizing schedules. But, she is easy to open with Maria. On the other hand, Maria is more comfortable talking casually with her assistant than is too formal. They both often talk about more personal things that have never been related to each other’s work. However, after hearing the shocking news that Whilhelm died, everything changed. Not only is the awards night event a tribute, but it’s all about Maria.
The change also comes when a young director, Klaus (Lars Eidinger), offers Maria to discuss business. Klaus offers to star in “Maloja Snake”, a manuscript written by Wilhelm. The performance is about the world of love between an old woman, Helena, and a young girl, Sigrid. Maria herself began to lift her name as an actress when she played Sigrid in the past. However, Maria felt that the dilemma in her didn’t accept her because Helena was very contrary to Sigrid. For Maria, the character has become a part of her personal life. Yet, the director assumed that Maria in her youth could be Sigrid.
Helena can be Sigrid and Sigrid can be Helena. Just like the relationship between Mary and Valentine. It could be if they both are the same person or one of them never existed at all. You wouldn’t love this kind of movie like Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York“. The line between fiction, reality, audience, and where we watch this film no longer exists. And Assayas plays how perspective according to him occurs in the script he wrote. Maria never realized that she was related to time. But apparently, she refused to become a new character again for fear of losing the essence of other characters.
Maria refuses to be Helana and she is afraid of how this character will influence her in real life; she always complained about the attitude or dialogue of the character and there was a rejection when she and Valentine practiced their respective characters. “Maloja Snake” is a reality, tells the story of a businessman who employs Sigrid as her assistant. Even so, the assistant doesn’t have good skills in the field. As with the relationship between Maria and Valentine, it clearly illustrated how they don’t need to be other people.
Increasingly, the reflection between both and their fictional characters began to flex. “Clouds of Sils Maria” is more precisely an art and life. When the line between life and art begins to bend, we cannot distinguish between what is real and not real. It’s a movie that has many layers, with lots of meta-text, lots of sub-text, and lots of satire. And in this film, Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart create strong synergy and absorb the audience in each scene. Every scene when they are emotional, it turns out they are just acting. However, when they are not acting, everything becomes upside down. Their presence is in the frame but their presence is only a fake. The question is, who is fake?
It’s a pretentious art movie to say at least and probably, I hate to say that this is one of the most boring arthouse films I have watched. However, boredom is a big question of whether I like this film or not. Of course, it’s difficult how we have to get into the water rather than having to sink. Likewise with the chemistry between Binoche and Stewart. The characters they play are full of dilemmas, full of strength, and full of strange series of dialogues. Regardless of there are some scenes like laughing at superhero films, I kind of love this movie. Moreover, you have never seen Stewart acting as a real character, not just as Stewart herself.
So, how can I conclude? Do you have to like this film? Do you have to understand this film? There is no answer honestly. This film is so much more than about Juliette Boneche’s life crisis and fiction. This film presents many different layers. And to tell you the truth, I’m astonished by this movie. Assayas shows a side of ambiguity and removes the boundary between reality and fiction without having to describe it surrealistically. Real, strong, and change various points of view whether you sit in what chair or watch where.
4 out of 5 stars.