Cannes review: Rodin (2017)

Rodin is a ploddingly uninteresting biopic of the revolutionary sculptor and his relationship with Camille Claudel by Jacques Doillon.


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Jacques Doillon’s film opens with Auguste Rodin working on his sculptural interpretation of Dante’s The Gates of Hell. It is all too tempting to see this as a metaphor for the film as a whole.

Burly, bearded, domineeringly working-class Rodin (Vincent Lindon, who won a Best Actor award for The Measure of a Man) is working in his studio. The scene is tastefully shot in soft shades of light grey, light blue and white. You can tell he’s a sculptor because there are sculptural objects all around, a naked model in contortions on a plinth and a bevy of new young female models giggling in the changing room. He is talking with his adoring assistant and lover Camille Claudel (Izïa Higelin, Summertime), and in their enthusiastic conversation about his art, he reveals that the shapes are coming to him in clay – for him, clay, not metal or stone, is the medium. It seems to suit the earthy physicality of his persona. He is obsessed with his statue of Balzac.

Rodin as a lover, despite his long-suffering, tightly corseted wife Rose (Séverine Caneele, L’Humanité) is unfortunately the theme of the film. In authentically set-dressed rooms of the time, actors in period costumes say lines about art. Adoring Camille is seen in the bedroom with Rodin in voluminous white underwear. Famous names flit through – Victor Hugo (Bernard Verley), Monet (Olivier Cadiot) and Rainer Maria Rilke (Anders Danielsen Lie) to drop a comment.

Many scenes were shot in the actual locations and everything possible seems to have been done to create authentic settings of the period. Sadly, this dull film never seems to take off beyond this. Bruno Nuytten’s 1988 Camille Claudel remains the critics’ choice.

Rodin is now showing in the Official Selection at the 70th Cannes Film Festival.

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