Sachi R

Obiter dicta on music, men and matters

Archive for the ‘Sachi_R rsachi Seraphine French movie Yolande Moreau Uhde artist painting movie haunting Nature’ Category


Posted by rsachi on November 16, 2009

Séraphine. This is a real story, made recently into a  famous French movie (7 Césars including Best Actress for Yolande Moreau) and I was lucky to see it on SQ233 enroute to Sydney.

Like so many French movies I have seen, the movie paints brilliant character portraits against a visually depressing imagery of buildings and spaces. The colours of walls are all dark dirty green or brown and black, and you wonder if you would like to be alive for even a few minutes in such a space, shorn of the bright hues and sunlit life basking under a blue sky (something you can count on here in Sydney).

But the characters are different. I don’t understand French much, but their spoken words are so fine on my ears, and the captions help to follow the brilliant expressions and thoughts of the characters.

In this film, the main character Séraphine is an ageing woman of dull appearance and body language, trundling along, working to scrub floors and wash the laundry of her convent nuns in a stream, in a depressing town called Senlis in Pre-WW I days. But wait a bit, and she transforms herself in front of our eyes as she secretly paints in her dingy dark room by candle light. She is very masculine in all her gestures, and has no niceties about her; but two things are luminous always..her paintings in candle light and her eyes and face as she communicates with Mary in the church. The bright shapes of flowers and fruits in her paintings are so cheerful. There is some kind of a dynamic in the visuals as you think you are almost walking amidst these cheerful expressions of Mother Nature.

Séraphine the maid who has always hidden her artistic side from everyone opens up to her benefactor. Herr Wilhelm Uhde, a famous art collector and promoter hiding  in Senlis away from the bustle of Paris, discovers that this house maid is a gifted painter. He convinces Séraphine to concentrate on her painting and make enough works to hold an exhibition in Paris.

Séraphine, who embraces trees and sees visions of beauty as she saunters in the woods, now has dreams of living a life of comfort and elegance. She even rents a large and comfortable apartment. She orders a silk bridal gown in preparation for some dreamy ceremony with silver candles and so on she envisions. By the way, she is touching 60 and says she has no family at all.

But the WW not only  tears down many lives, it also destroys the art market so Herr Uhde is no longer able to promote Séraphine  as a great artist and get her to move up from the drudgery of a house maid’s work to the comfortable life of a successful painter.

 The shortlived dream is dashed as Herr Uhde says there are no buyers now for her paintings. Séraphine is left alone to become eccentric and irritable. She is finally bundled off to a lunatic asylum. No one, neither Herr Uhde nor any of the town folk think of taking Séraphine  under their care and making her feel better in her last,dark days.

Luckily, Herr Uhde pays for the asylum to move Séraphine  into better quarters and she is able to walk into the wood peacefully and sit under a large tree as she counts her last days.

There are haunting questions the movie asks. What makes an artist? Whence comes the inspiration and talent?

How weak is man’s nature, that we cannot sustain the spirit of creativity in the artist, and show them love and care when they need it most? Why does a Séraphine, or for that matter, van Gogh, go mad?


Posted in Sachi_R rsachi Seraphine French movie Yolande Moreau Uhde artist painting movie haunting Nature | Leave a Comment »