TIFF Review: Maria Chapdelaine

Maria Chapdelaine

The colony of New France was established in 1534 with permanent settlements springing up at the beginning of the next century. The area changed name, boundary and ownership several times before becoming what is now part of Canada. Countless people crossed the ocean to the New World with the promise of land and a new life. However, many found the climate and work simply too hard and unrelenting. In Maria Chapdelaine, a young lady growing up in the wilderness has a difficult choice to make.

Quebec in the early 1900s. Maria Chapdelaine (Sara Montpetit) lives with her popular and long-suffering mother (Hélène Florent) and her enterprising father (Sébastien Ricard). They live with the rest of their family in a remote cabin on the edge of the woods. He longs for seclusion and quiet while his wife yearns for society. At the age of sixteen, Maria starts to receive suitors. She’s offered the choice of an exciting life in the city, staying with her family or the best of both worlds.

The rural Quebec countryside is the real star of Maria Chapdelaine. Based on Louis Hémon’s popular romance novel, the brutal, beautiful and unforgiving landscapes are captured magnificently by Michel La Veaux’s captivating cinematography. The pacing of Sébastien Pilote’s film chimes perfectly with the ennui and repetitiveness of isolation. Maria Chapdelaine is a slow-burning drama which lulls you into the rhythm of the wilds.

Maria Chapdelaine screens at Toronto International Film Festival.

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