This is a biographical movie on the life of Seraphine Louis Maillaird a little known artist who was discovered by the “discoverer” of Henri Rousseau, Wilhelm Uhde.
Seraphine was born in 1864 in a small French village where she attended school and when not at school she was a shepherdess. At the age of 13 she was sent to Paris to work as a maid. Her work sees her hired by an institute for young women where she is introduced to art by observing the drawing teacher’s classes. Following this she is a servant in a convent for 20 years.
The movie starts in 1912 when Seraphine is 48 years old living in the town of Senlis. She has a humble life working very hard as a maid, doing laundry & other menial tasks, attending Mass and painting.
She had had a visitation some years earlier from her Guardian Angel who suggested that she paint. Since this experience she is very devout to the Virgin Mary and continues to have visions and “voices” in her head that plague her for the rest of her life.
Her paintings are considered naive and primitive, with a frenzied energy to them and are not taken seriously. She continues to paint with no expectations of them being liked or of any financial benefit to her.
When Wilhelm Uhde, a German, comes to Senlis to have a break from his Parisian lifestyle he rents an apartment and his landlady arranges for Seraphine to be his maid. He comes across one of her paintings when invited to dinner at the landlady’s. The landlady had reluctantly kept the painting due to a request by her son and had advised Seraphine to give up painting as her time was better spent cleaning!
Wilhelm convinces Seraphine that he genuinely values her paintings and buys them from her. He strongly encourages her to keep painting. With the event of World War 1 Wilhelm is forced to flee France and return to his native Germany.
Seraphine is rediscovered by Wilhelm in 1927. She has been a prolific painter during the war years and has matured in her style. This is the beginning of a new life for her as Wilhelm supports her financially. The recognition that she gains through this association gives her a newfound independence. She becomes more and more extravagant and deluded. Five years later it ends in disaster when she loses the plot and is committed to a psychiatric hospital.
Whilst this is a long movie running at just over two hours, I wasn’t longing for it to end, its visually beautiful and at times grim.
Reviewed by: Linda McGlynns
Rating: [M] Contains violence.
Starring: Yolande Moreau, Ulrich Tukur, Anne Bennent, Geneviève Mnich
Directed by: Martin Provost
Genre: Drama, Biography
Duration: 2hr 6mins
Origin: France, Belgium
Language: In French and German, with English subtitles