Diary of a Chambermaid
Benoit Jacquot is reunited with former collaborators Vincent Lindon and Léa Seydoux in his new film The Diary of a Chambermaid, the third adaptation of Octave Mirbau’s novel for the big screen.
Despite its provincial French setting of nearly 100 years ago, Jacquot is able to take us through a number of themes pertinent to modern society. Celestine, played with a gentle sternness by the magnificent Léa Seydoux, is the maltreated chambermaid sent from Paris into the employment of a bourgeois household in the provinces.
A salaried slave in all but title, she does what she can to endure her mistress – who seems to take a certain glee from toying with her chambermaid – and enjoys the advances of elderly male admirers. Celestine’s restricted and undervalued existence drives her into the extremist arms of an anti-Semitic fellow staff member.
These themes, and Celestine’s ordeals, are artfully presented so as to resemble the rhythm of a diary. The narrative, sliced by reminiscences and sardonic comments uttered sotto voce, could just as easily be scribbled in the margin of her book as muttered under her breath.
Jacquot is careful to neither exaggerate the brutality of the period nor understate its beauty; amongst the cleaning of floors and lecherous men, he certainly finds an attractive aesthetic. However, there is a sense that perhaps the unreliable nature of a diary influences the portrayal of her life.
Perhaps embellished by memory, the good and the bad are regularly presented in extremes as Celestine battles to reconcile her internalised sense of servitude with her need for a gentler appreciation and freedom.
In the end, Jacquot and his cast are able to carry powerful contemporary messages through a time-tested story, all at once bringing the audience to both think and admire.
Diary of a Chambermaid does not have a UK release date yet.
Read an interview with star Lea Seydoux and director Benoit Jacquot here.
Read more of our reviews and interviews from the festival here.
For further information about Berlin Film Festival 2015 visit here.