Violette (2013), a beautifully shot biopic on French novelist and memoirist, Violette Leduc.
The writer’s life.
Emmanuelle Devos was great playing Leduc in this movie. She portrayed Leduc’s neurotic/histrionic tendencies with realism. Devos is someone I’d tell acting students to study when working on facial expressions. I can mute the movie and cover the subtitles, and still know what’s going on in the scenes just by watching the emotions (or lack thereof) in her face.
I thought this overhead shot of her and her mother is a great example of using subtle symbolism in film. Leduc’s mother had always been an integral part of her writing and this film shows their complex relationship. They clearly love each other and her mom is depicted as sweet and (for the most part) supportive. However, there is tension between them from time to time, mostly stemming from Leduc.
In this scene her mom comes over her apartment and she’s sleeping in Leduc’s bed. It’s a simple, common gesture to let your visiting parents (and the elderly in general) to sleep in your bed whilst you opt for the floor, but I feel like it shows Leduc’s tenderness towards her mother despite their occasional friction.
The side by side view shows that they’re inseparable, both in person and in the pages of her books. I also like the fact that Leduc is sleeping in a fetal position, symbolizing that she will always be her mother’s child no matter how hard she may try to distance herself.
This scene reminded me of when I was writing a draft for a novel on a water-damaged notebook in the White Mountains (New Hampshire). Writing outdoors is actually great–granted there aren’t mosquitoes fucking you up–because the fresh oxygen and sunlight boosts your mental processing. Being in solitude and away from the maddening crowd helps as well.
I was in love with Sandrine Kiberlain, who played Simone de Beauvoir, throughout this movie.
Yves Cape does a great job here turning a beautiful but cliche and dull shot into something interesting. The snow covered car resembles a phantom floating up the screen.
Yves Cape is a bit underrated as a cinematographer. He also did Holy Motors and Humanite. Observe where the actors are in the frame. As a photographer, that is my idea of a perfect composition.
This scene reminded me of The Others, when the daughter was playing in the wedding dress, and she transforms into the blind psychic – that’s another film with haunting (pun intended) cinematography.
This scene reminded me of when Hurricane Ike swept through Houston, and we were out of power for about a week. I sat in the dining room with just one candle, writing essays and poems.
The set and costume designers did an amazing job. Also, shout-out to the location scouts. Perfect choices.