Release Date: June 05, 2009
Audience: Older teenagers and adults
Runtime: 125 minutes
Distributor: Music Box Films
Director: Martin Provost
Executive Producer: None
Producer: Miléna Poylo and Gilles Sacuto
Address Comments To:William Schopf, Principal
Music Box Films
942 W. Lake Street
Chicago, IL 60607
Phone: (312) 492-9364
Based on true characters, the story opens in 1913 when 48-year-old Séraphine Louis becomes part-time housekeeper for visiting German art collector Wilhelm Uhde. Wilhelm has become famous for celebrating the early work of Picasso and other similar painters. He is surprised one day when he discovers that Séraphine, his uneducated, slightly delusional but very devout housekeeper, has painted a beautiful still life that reminds him of the primitive style of modern, undiscovered painters that he loves. He is further impressed when he sees Séraphine’s strange and intricate, but colorful and compelling, paintings of flowers and trees. Séraphine’s art is inspired by nature and nature’s God, who has sent her visions of angels to inspire her.
A poignant and unexpected professional relationship develops between Wilhelm and the strange painter. The vagaries of World War I and the Great Depression intervene, however, eventually leading to eccentric, erratic behavior and even madness.
Though this absorbing French movie has a Romantic worldview of the artist and artistic expression and has a tragic ending, it honors Séraphine’s Christian muse. In fact, the last shot of her shows her on a hill looking toward the sky as if she is still peacefully communing with God and His angels. Before that, the movie shows her painting while singing and praying. Also, one of her surviving paintings shown in the movie, a large canvas of bright red flowers with strange shapes, seems to symbolize the torn flesh and blood of Christ that frees us from our sins. Thus, Séraphine is like a Holy Fool character who can lead other people to God and Christ.
Even so, some of her actions in the movie remain erratic, bizarre and unexplained, so the spiritual aspects behind Séraphine’s behavior remain somewhat of a mystery. If the movie had explained more about the religious motivations that perhaps animated Séraphine’s art, it could have been even more inspiring.
The movie also contains some light allusions to the art collector’s homosexuality, brief nudity and three disturbing scenes of mental illness. All in all, therefore, MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution for this movie, which is meant for older mature audiences, not for families and younger children.
This absorbing movie has a Romantic view of artistic expression and a tragic ending, but it honors the Christian muse of the title character. Despite her eccentric, even insane behavior near the end of her life, she is last shown standing on a hill looking up toward God. If the movie had explained more about the religious motivations that animated her art, it could have been more inspiring. MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution due to brief nudity, allusions to homosexuality, and intense scenes of madness.