Rodin, written and directed by Jacques Doillon
Much like the subject of the film, this feature has been dismissed by critics, who gave it a scary 26 score, out of 100.
They are wrong, on so many levels, for this is a worthwhile story, of a creator that is a role model for the passion, dedication to his work, his talent, perseverance, creativity, bravery to move art in a new age, kindness, intelligence, vitality, appreciation of beauty and excellence, hope, gratitude and self-regulation.
There is a very dark side to this motion picture, which has been listed among the best of 2017, at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Palme D’Or.
The love between Auguste Rodin and his student, assistant and then lover Camille Claudel gives way to a conflict, a period of recrimination and accusations from the woman who has to live in the shadow of this man.
By the way, our own giant of sculpture, Constantin Brancusi has responded to the invitation he received to work in the atelier of the master, genius, creator of chef d’oeuvres Auguste Rodin with the words:
“Nothing grows well in the shade of a big tree”
There are many scenes that remain in the memory of the public, even if they might be inspired by hearsay or at times represent the imagination, the freedom of artistic license, which must be involved in the making of a motion picture.
When Rodin is creating a sculpture of the acclaimed author of Les Miserables, Victor Hugo refuses almost any interaction with the sculptor, with some peculiar requests, like no drawing must be made in my presence, no crayon must be around and he would not pose under any circumstances…furthermore, he did not address the artist, who, in turn, said that he does not care, when he was asked about the issue.
Rodin talks about Dante and his admiration for the master who has given the world one of the best books ever, The Divine Comedy, expressing the view that the Italian giant was like a sculptor, only he used words instead of marble or other materials.
Many scenes deal with the conception and the aftermath of the creation of Balzac, for which Auguste Rodin travels to find the writer to the region where he was born, takes many years to produce a very controversial masterpiece.
In his relationship with Camille Claudel, he signs a contract, with points that involve travelling to Italy, presenting the woman to the members of his family, fidelity and marriage as last but not least on the list, to which she also jokingly perhaps wants to add that he loves her “avec fureur” aka with furor.
Auguste Rodin meets with other geniuses, some of them become his friends and many others express their support, for instance when his Balzac is ridiculed and rejected, many luminaries, including Toulouse Lautrec , Mallarme, Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne, have signed a petition to raise the aforementioned work in a main square.
In his personal life, the sculptor has had his immense share of turmoil…he writes about the time when Camille Claudel travels to great Britain and he longs for her, supplicating for pity and wishing she is back.
There are many lines that could be quotes –indeed, some are evidently extracts from letters and other documents- and present the opinions of the master on art, love, life, Balzac and so much more…a work of art is never ended
When the commission comes to see Balzac, they are more than indifferent, they say that the statue is a mass without form and he is unpleasant…to which Rodin replies that it is not his intention to be liked.
Others dismiss the statue with more harsh words and add that Balzac will be known for his masterpieces, not his genitals…in discussions over the size of the belly, Rodin states that we must remember the genius had 2,500 characters in his stomach…
It took Auguste Rodin seven years of reflection and seven years of work to finish his Balzac.
There are some violent, fearsome clashes with Camille Claudel, who comes at the atelier and confronts her former lover, who says that he is afraid of what she has become, while admitting that he has had luck to gain recognition, while the woman, in spite of her tremendous work and immense talent is not accepted and acclaimed as she should be…but this is not his fault he says…is it? And adds that she does not need him anymore.
However, he will remain a benefactor, paying for her bills and lobbying for her works to be accepted.
He even withdraws his sculptures form some shows to allow her works to gain the needed exposure.
In addition, he wants to remain anonymous.
In a more sensual part of the film, the hero has a ménage a trois with a model and another artist, aspect that is probably deduced from the drawing of two women in very intimate, at times quite difficult to obtain positions.
Even if Camille Claudel has traded the love for the master for a ferocious hate, the genius will continue to be inspired by the woman he had loved so much and see her face, talk to sculptures that he creates and resemble her.