Time, Age, and Anxiety: Reflections on Clouds of Sils Maria

Among the films we have watched in class, Clouds of Sils Maria had the most familiar set of actors and actresses, and the most Hollywood of all. Yet, it is captivating and still encompasses the cinematography and dialogue that European films has, which we all grew familiar with. With such a big ensemble of casts, it is not surprising that the chemistry between them is riveting, despite the often simple scenes that each actors have to enact. Despite this simplicity, the dialogue between each characters is what elevated the film where it was able to show different stages of an actor’s life and the anxiety of facing their imminent drop of fame.

Maria Enders, much like Juliette Binoche the actress who played her, is renowned for her work in the film industry. She is famous for many things, however her greatest pride is her breakout role as a young Sigrid in a play, which gave her the opportunity to rise as a star. Of course, her fame would not last as she comes face to face with the fact that she is growing old; a trait which she perceives to be detrimental to her career. This anxiety towards her aging in an industry that is obsessed with the youth, makes her question her legacy as an actress. This is heightened by her assistant Valentine, who seems to be more intrigue with seeing younger actress Jo-Ann who will be replacing Enders’ role in the remake of the play.

Enders’ midlife crisis is of course not surprising, considering that the industry demands so much from actresses like her. However, it is through the consonance of the play and Enders’ own reality that we truly see her struggle. Often times, her reading with Valentine feels like it’s the real thing; that the characters of Sigrid and Helena become real through Valentine and Enders. You also begin to wonder if Valentine is truly helping Enders or if she is actually contributing to Enders’ growing anxiety. One thing cannot be denied though, that is, the chemistry between the two actresses. With such mesmerizing performances, the audience is left to wonder in the philosophies of aging, time, and modern pop culture. Slowly though, we see Enders get lost in her own fears, almost acting childlike as she heads towards the clouds. After Valentine’s disappearance, we see Enders fall into background; almost as if she wasn’t the star of the film anymore. We focus on Jo-Ann, whose life is again bombarded by paparazzi, replacing Enders’ spot as the main focus in the film. In the end, it seems that Enders have come to accept her fate, and simply stays quiet as she watches Jo-Ann’s tabloid-popular life unfold.

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