By Andrea Karen Hammer
Seraphine, telling the true-life story of a housekeeper by day and artist at night, is a unique film experience.
From the opening scene, viewers see the remarkable actress playing Seraphine Louis (Yolande Moreau) quietly walking up a steep hill. She is carrying a chair, so she can sit under a magnificent tree, signaling an awe of nature that sustains her life and informs her creative work. In frequently wordless sequences, the talented director and screenwriter Martin Provost presents scenes like framed paintings that convey their own visual tales.
Artist’s Spiritual Inspiration While Painting
Embodying the lumbering and work-weary gestures of Seraphine by day, Yolande Moreau equally captures the artist’s spiritual inspiration while painting at night. As viewers watch her fascinating and sometimes horrifying gathering and mixing of natural materials for paints, they find the actress’s light-infused moments through guardian angel-inspired songs simultaneously uplifting if somewhat troubling. With clear references to an altered mental status throughout the film, Seraphine reveals the unjust and upsetting treatment of this artist in the early 1900s.
Art Dealer’s Clear Focus on Talent Versus Class
As the avant-garde art dealer Wilhelm Uhde who first encounters Seraphine as a maid, Ulrich Tukur adds a sense of humanity and decency in parts of the film showing his clear focus on talent versus class. As someone who rejects conventions in his personal and professional life, Ulrich Tukur consistently recognizes Seraphine’s artistic gifts, which others dismiss as “naive.” His support at the beginning of Seraphine’s career reveals his independent and visionary thinking, whereas scenes about his withdrawal–when she most needed his support–are disturbing.
Lengthy Bonus Feature Highlights Crew’s Detailed Yet Seamless Work
In a lengthy bonus feature about “The Making of Seraphine” including insights from director and screenwriter Martin Provost, film enthusiasts are reminded of the massive time, energy and work involved in a movie production. From re-creating Seraphine’s paintings to sewing and making costumes that appear shabby and worn, the crew members working on this movie make every detail appear seamless.
Life-Sustaining Force of Art, Even When Creating Against the Odds
When considered from different angles, Seraphine is a film displaying the life-sustaining force of art, even for those struggling to create against all the odds.