There’s been quite a few “backstage” films of late. The most famous example is Birdman, but other notable entries include Map To The Stars and Venus in Furs. Olivier Assayas is a very descriptive director, but in Clouds of Sils Maria he wraps the plot and intrigue in many layers of intertwining knots, merging fantasy with reality; the frayed ends only come together in retrospect.
Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is a respected actress who has now reached middle-age. She made her name playing Sigrid, a young seductress who entices then abandons her boss, Helana, in a play entitled Maloja Snake. Travelling to Sils Maria with her young personal assistant Val (Krtisen Stewart), she agrees to take on the role as Helena in a London revival of the play. A hot Hollywood star (Jo-Ann Ellis – Chloë Grace Moretz) is slated to play her original role as Sigrid. As Maria struggles with ageing, divorce and the changing face of cinema, real life and fiction begin to blur.
Olivier Assayas warps the tale of Sigrid and Helena into the real life relationship between Maria and Val, cleverly mixing normal intercourse with script rehearsal. Kristen Stewart continues to impress with another effortlessly balanced performance, whilst Binoche is great as always. Assayas has made a film that will stay with you after the credits roll, much of his blurred lines are so subtle that the pieces take time to fall into place. Clouds of Sils Maria is a well-acted, impressively constructed and beautifully shot play within a film, within a play.
Clouds of Sils Maria is out in cinemas from Friday.