Interview With Actress Juliette Binoche From 'Camille Claudel 1915'

Feb 26, 2013

Juliette Binoche as Camille Claudel (from Camille Claudel 1915)
Credit film still from Camille Claudel 1915

Award-winning actress Juliette Binoche stars in Camille Claudel 1915. She collaborated with French movie director Bruno Dumont to produce this movie shown at the Berlinale Film Festival earlier this month.

"Life brings you possibilities, and whether you want to take them or not it's your choice,” she said, and "I'm very kind of going with the flow of what's happening, coming to my life. [But] sometimes I take initiative.” 

She said this collaboration was a result of such rare occasion - she took initiative and approached Dumont to work together.

In the film, Binoche’s character is the same age as the actress. Binoche explained the difficulty in playing the role - saying she only had four pages of text to work with in order to portray the tortured artist.

The film captures roughly three days in the life of Camille Claudel, a sculptor. Once the mistress of Auguste Rodin, Camille is put into a remote asylum in the south of France by her family. Her agony is expressed through the surrounding sounds in the asylum - Murmuring, moaning, screaming, even the sound of boiling water becomes threatening. 

When asked about her first impressions about the film, Binoche said, "I image Camille was living in much more sounds and screams than there is in the film, but I think the choice of the director is to have the experience, to have little bit of that.”

Binoche added that the noisiness in some parts of the film are balanced with silence in others.

“The difference between Paul Claudel and my character is also very contrasted with the sound as well,” she said.

The correspondence between Camille and her famous brother, writer Paul Claudel, as well as medical records provided the structure for "Camille Claudel 1915". The film is shot in a real asylum and as he has done before, Dumont incorporated non-professional actors. In fact, most of the patients in his film are really mentally disabled.

"Somehow they are more vulnerable and somehow they are more powerful, because they don't calculate anything,” said Binoche, ”For this film in particular, because they are patients, I mean, they are always right. They are who they are. I am in the wave with them. For me, it's helping me to create another reality in a way."

The movie begins two years into Camille Claudel's imprisonment, which lasted for 30 years. She never sculpted again and died alone in the asylum near Avignon in 1943. 

"Feeling abandoned, or the theme of being imprisoned, what it is to be surrounded by the past, to be obsessed with the past, it's timeless,” explained Binoche, “There are themes you can talk about all the time and I don't think you are thinking that much of the past. I think the theme is very present."

Juliette Binoche's "Camille" presents one of the strongest female performances at this year’s Berlinale. The 48-year-old Oscar award-winning actress has appeared in more than 40 feature films, but she does still seem to go with the flow:  whether it's a role in an art house film, a mainstream movie, or picking up dancing to perform at the National Theater in London. 

Binoche's next project will be the romantic comedy: "Words and Pictures".

“It's a film I am going to do in Vancouver with Clive Owen. It's a little lighter than Camille Claudel, I hope so,” she said.

When asked about preparing for the new and very different role, Binoche said, “It's nice, even though in Camille Claudel there's a lot of hopes, but I do have to find an equilibrium."