Simone de Beauvoir is considered to be a household name in the spheres of groundbreaking female authors and feminist philosophy. Violette Leduc is not, but her work did as much to push the boundaries of female sexuality in literature, and open-up opportunities for women within the literary arena. Martin Provost’s biographical drama doesn’t pull any punches, and whilst it’s often mean and rough around the edges, Violette also contains much beauty and poignancy.
In 1942 Violette (Emmanuelle Devos) is living with a writer, Maurice Sachs (Olivier Py), who despite not being attentive or interested in her sexually, encourages Violette to write. After he disappears to Germany, she moves back to Paris and makes a living from the Black Market. On completion of her first novel she accosts Simone de Beauvoir (Sandrine Kiberlain) and hands her the manuscript. Although she doesn’t reciprocate Violette’s advances, Simone becomes her staunchest supporter. Violette struggles with issues of self-worth and loneliness whilst at the same time battling to be recognised as a writer by the wider public.
Violette is a beautifully shot and paced biopic of a complex character. Emmanuelle Devos puts in one of the best acting performances I’ve seen all year. She embodies Violette’s insecurities and nastiness along with her deep need to be loved. Don’t expect slow and drawn-out drama, Provost keeps events going at a good pace which, whilst allowing the story to settle, infuses Violette with tension. The period backdrops are stunning as is the beauty and solitude evoked by the images of Provence. Violette is a striking testament to the life of a woman who broke every boundary and whilst almost breaking herself.
Violette is out in cinemas on Friday.