Starring Emmanuelle Devos, Sandrine Kiberlain & Olivier Gourmet
Hands up anybody who knows who Violette Leduc is? Anybody? Nobody? Calm down you in the front, you’re the only one with your hand up, be patient. Luckily one can still watch the film with limited knowledge of its subject matter and still take a lot from it.
Violette Leduc (Devos) is living with writer Maurice Sachs (Olivier Py) during the later years of the Second World War. Despite her forceful, desperate advances Sachs is not attracted to Leduc which contributes to her low self-esteem stemming from being an illegitimate daughter and very critical mother. Sachs eventually runs away but encourages Leduc to be an author, which she pursues. After developing a relationship with fellow writer Simone de Beauvoir (Kiberlain), who introduces her to other intellectuals such as Jean Genet (Jacques Bonnaffé), Ludec starts to fall for Beavoir which starts to affect her work as she struggles to gain confidence and tries to come to terms with her own image and identity issues.
The film is an intriguing, sometimes overwhelming, character analysis mainly consisting of Leduc suffering with many artistic demons that a modern audience would possibly associate with creative people today. However, these very same traits made Leduc out to be an outcast and unusual among her peers at the time. Dealing with unstable reservations about the quality of her work, being open about her sexuality, pushing the boundaries of French feminism among other struggles affected Leduc physically and mentally.
Director Provost portrays these character flaws in what appears to be an ordinary but actually quite sophisticated approach, using literary techniques such as chapters to introduce different turning points in Leduc’s life and emphasises the subject matter. Provost’s knack for concentrating on narrow, awkward spaces is an intelligent effective technique that reflects Leduc’s troubled psychological moods of somebody only feeling at ease through their work and praise from fellow peers. One could say using these visual aspects, Provost at times seems to channel the past work of other directors such as Oliver Stone. It should be noted that Devos captures these slight nuances and characteristics perfectly in a strong performance that makes the audience yearn for Violette to find the satisfaction she so deserves no matter where it comes from.
This aspect is however, a double-edged sword as what was a highlight eventually becomes a glaring flaw. A formula is formed in which we see Leduc faced with a dilemma and try to overcome it a number of times, the film starts to feel too episodic and one can almost guess what the forthcoming scenes entail.
Violette is a memorable film due to the excellent performances which and high point of the film. Emmanuelle Devos in particular excels, embodying Leduc’s mannerisms and persona. Cinematography is visually engaging for the most part and has a delicate coldness to it. It slightly seems to drag towards the end and while the subject matter can be heavier than expected at times, within reason, it’s managed well by the Provost with some humorous moments to lighten the mood.