Clouds On Sils Maria: Art Imitating Real Life, And Vice Versa

The beginning scenes of Clouds On Sils Maria immerses the viewer into the life and perspective of a personal assistant to a middle-aged, high-class actress. At first, everything seems as if they have an ultimately professional, yet close, relationship, but the movie turns this around after a few brief interactions. We get to delve deeper into the main characters’ emotions, thoughts, and attitude towards life because of the circumstances they are put in, much to the parallel of the plot of Maloja Snake. Many symbolisms and subtle dialogue were placed by Assayas, and this gives the film its many layers and makes you want to solve the mystery of the two characters’ minds.

First, I really enjoyed the parallelisms that the film had with the play Maria Enders starred in, Maloja Snake. As the tension grew between the characters, both emotionally and sexually, one would be confused as to the dialogue being real or just simply being read off of the Maloja Snake script. As Valentine put it herself, “It’s theatre. It’s an interpretation of life. It can be truer than life itself.” We get to see this tension start when Valentine talks of Jo-Ann Ellis, and how fond she is of her acting. Maria reacts quite violently and even asks Val, “What do I need to do to make you admire me?” It is clear that Maria wants the affection and attention of the latter, and maybe part of it is reciprocated, but not enough for her to stay. And just like the end of the play, her object of her affection leaves her in the dust with no remorse or closure.

But the film also talks about the art of acting and how it takes a toll on the actors. Whether film stars or theatre actors, each one puts in their own emotion and experiences into the character and they make it their own. For Maria, a part of her always wants to be Sigrid because a vital role in her teenage years was playing the seductress in Maloja Snake. She wants to stay the youthful, inexperienced, reckless person that Sigrid is, but to her dismay, she actually morphs into the character of Helena. Maria even says to Klaus, “I played Sigrid in ‘Maloja Snake’ when I was 18. For me it was more than a role, and… in some way I am still Sigrid.” Actors have this sense of ownership when it comes to their roles, some even to the point of endangering their physical and emotional well-being to portray the part correctly. This is true for most method actors, and we get to see that their characters really affect the rest of their life.

Ultimately, I think it is safe to say that the film touches on many themes throughout its duration. It talks about unreciprocated love, desire, youth, and life as an actor. But it really makes one want to take a step back and think about these and critique them. None of these characters were exactly likable or perfect, but that’s because this film stayed true to the facts of life. Nobody will stay youthful forever. Not everyone that you desire and chase after will reciprocate that affection. Not everyone in your life is meant to be there forever. And that’s all okay. This film teaches us that life goes on, and all we can do is learn from our experiences.

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