Raised amid the sun-dappled countryside of Normandy, young aristocrat Jeanne meets and soon enters into marriage with the spirited Viscount Julien de Lamare. Before long, however, Julien is off chasing local women while squandering their fortune on drinking and gambling—likewise, motherhood provides Jeanne only the barest of comforts. As she navigates her isolation, the social pressures of her elevated status and a series of men who bring her nothing but grief, the illusions of Jeanne's privilege quickly dissolve.
At once gauzy and desolate, radiant and shadowed, Stéphane Brizé's seventh feature adapts Guy de Maupassant's novel to reveal in quotidian gestures the stark reality of life as a woman in twentieth-century France. Une Vie (A Woman's Life) premiered at BFI London, Busan, Karlovy Vary, Stockholm, and Venice, where it won the FIPRESCI Prize. The film was also awarded the Louis Delluc Prize for Best Film, and is a New York Times Critics' Pick.
Stéphane Brizé versus Passive Existence in Une Vie (A Woman's Life)
In an exclusive essay for Filmatique, Guest Curator Ieuan Walker examines Stéphane Brizé's philosophical articulation of individual will and responsibility vis-à-vis the historical oppression of women in Une Vie (A Woman's Life).
"A moving, beautifully modulated adaptation of Guy de Maupassant's novel, in which a young noblewoman copes with the loss of ideals… A Woman's Life has the kind of majesty found not in the grand gesture but the modest detail, the kind that accumulates resonance with each seemingly minor event until the picture of a character becomes as complete as a painting by Ingres"
"The pathos and wonder of A Woman's Life comes from its recognition that Jeanne is at once a captive of cruel circumstances and a willful, intelligent human being… A Woman's Life, like The Measure of a Man, moves calmly and deliberately, but it never feels slow. Instead, its images and scenes are suffused by an intensity that seems almost to be a quality of the light and air as they play across Ms. Chemla's watchful, sometimes inscrutable features"
"Spanning decades with the speed of a pebble skittering across the surface of a lake—but, contrary to all laws of physics, managing to gain momentum as it goes along—the film begins on a seemingly random day in the life of Baroness Jeanne Le Perthuis des Vauds (Judith Chemla)… Chemla is vivid and strikingly present throughout, her careful and contained performance so grounded in the reality of Jeanne's circumstances that her posture alone is enough to tell us how old she is at any given moment, or how much time has passed since last we thought to check… A Woman's Life is a very particular experience, told with consistency and without a whit of compromise"
"Stéphane Brizé's gorgeous period piece explores the bleak lot of an aristocratic heiress in 19th-century France. Shot in boxy 1.33:1 ratio, and kissed by flickering candlelight, this a world so persuasively realized that you can almost smell the damp that rises"
"Brizé persuasively reflects the subjugation of women's agency with the fragmented A Woman's Life, and is perhaps the most auspicious transformation of the author since the handsome productions of the 1950s with this astute period piece featuring an exquisite ensemble of character actors… [DP Antoine Heberle] transforms the film into a constant visual juxtaposition of stark, contrasting palettes, ranging from the brooding grays of Jeanne's present to the golden, sparkling vivaciousness of happy times she can never return to"