Clouds of Sils Maria

Kristen Stewart made headlines for being the first American actress to earn a Cesar award (equivalent of an Oscar) for her supporting role in Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria. This just added to my excitement to finally getting around to watching the film. While the film is about an aging woman chosen to portray the older character of a play she did twenty years ago, it divulges deeper to her psyche – particularly her rejection for change and perception. Note: the review is mainly a character study, so this has spoilers.

Maria Enders got her career started playing Sigrid in Majorca’s Snake, a play about the relationship between two women, a youthful girl and a middle-aged woman. She was in Zurich in order to honor her friend Wilhelm Melchior, when she receives news of his death. Partly to honor his memory, she had agreed to play Helena, the older woman in the play. To prepare for the role, she retreats to the author's house with Valentine, and this is really where the film picks up. 

Most of the film happens in the vicinity of the house, the banter between JB and Valentina digging further to the person Maria is. She rejects the idea of Helena, always looking at everything from Sigrid’s point of view. To her, Sigrid is eternal, the image of her that cannot be touched. In reality, Sigrid is the past she is trying to hold onto - from a in-demand actress to playing roles that she think doesn’t suit her. Now that she is no longer in the limelight, she’d like to hold on to her success, her youth. 

Helena, on the other hand, represents change, something that Maria doesn’t want to accept. She rejects Helena in so many ways – telling herself that she is finding it difficult to portray the character, rejecting Valentina’s views and holding on to her perception of Sigrid. However, she is in fact Helena – successful, well-rounded, and yet unsatisfied. She wants to hold on to her youth, but fails to see that change is inevitable. She’s scared of the inevitable. The way the film ended is really important to the formation of Maria’s psyche – that what she rejects is not frightful, but provides clarity in her situation. It’s quite the perfect ending, the inevitable. 

The film was well-shot, the wide angles capturing the beauty of Switzerland, and the way the camera pans during their practices at the house engulfs the movie viewers in the moment. The performances of Juliette Binoche and Kirsten Stewart were fantastic as well. I love how Binoche can easily switch from Maria to Helena and really be in the moment. Stewart was already on good footing the moment she appeared on the screen. She suited quite the role. The film kind of gave the feeling that it wanted to connect the relationship of the two to the characters of the play, but it’s a minor part compared to the depths of Binoche’s character. Chloe Moretz appears briefly as the young star assigned to play Sigrid, and while she does well on the role, she doesn’t really do much. Her big moment wasn’t as powerful as I think it was meant to be.

Final Word: Well-acted, with a beautiful scenery. 

Cast: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloe Grace Moretz
Director: Olivier Assayas
Year: 2014


  1. Juliette Binoche is probably my favorite actress but this one I really did not like. Thought it was too boring with just not enough happening to keep me compelled

    1. I hope you at least enjoyed her performance in this. She was great!

  2. Stewart was the star of this film for me. I enjoyed it, you're right, Moretz wasn't that great, but I've never really enjoyed her in anything. But this film was lovely. Great write up!

    1. Stewart was fantastic, she really commanded the screen with her performance.