Clouds of Sils Maria

DRAMA; 2hr 4min

STARRING: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz

Swiss role: Binoche (left) and Stewart

Fame is a conflict of empowerment and isolation. Actress Maria Enders (Binoche) has the sensual poise of a woman long accustomed to adulation, a savvy, omnipresent assistant (Stewart as Val) to cushion her buffer zone and a nagging chorus of insecurities. She and Val are necessarily close, yet once they begin running lines in the Swiss Alps for the play Maloja Snake (whose writer, complicating everything yet more, has just died), truth bleeds symbiotically into fiction.


Twenty years ago, Maria broke through in the role of Snake ’s vixenish ingénue, Sigrid. Now she is taking on the, to her, highly confronting role of smitten older woman, Helena; wild child Jo-Ann (Moretz) will play Sigrid. Val is more oblique than Maria but no less definite. As the women flip in and out of the play’s dialogue, it becomes a metaphor for a shifting balance of power.


The casting is a massive plus, with dovetailed performances from a naturalistic Binoche and Stewart. But Maria’s displacement is still a gristly slab of words and writer-director Olivier Assayas’s cerebral observations more slow burn than blaze of light. I kept holding on for a rounding out that never really arrived.