When you think of Rodin, you probably think of the kiss. In Jacques Doillon’s latest you will see the passion and love that lead to the creation of his most famous work along with many of Rodin’s other iconic sculptures.
Doillon delivers a non-traditional biopic which emulates Rodin’s approach to his sculptures. The film starts in 1880 with Auguste Rodin receiving his first public commission – The Gates of Hell. Doillon doesn’t shy away from allowing the viewer to share in Rodin’s torment as he tries to complete the commissioned piece whilst receiving criticism for the other works he produces.
Even though the film covers a period of 20 years it is not crafted using traditional storytelling methods – this is not your usual biopic fare. The viewer is plunged straight in to Rodin the man. It is reminiscent of La vie en Rose by Oliver Dahan although we see nothing of Rodin’s childhood or formative years. How did he become this obsessive? You are left to figure that out for yourself. The Gates of Hell may be the foundation but Rodin works on several other sculptures during that time including The Kiss and Balzac – which took him 7 years to complete.
While it is clear that Doillon admires the master he also shows the flawed Rodin, a quite unlikeable one at that, with an all consuming, obsessive love for clay, his first and primary love – his other was women. It is through the relationships he has with his common in law wife, Rose and gifted student Camille Claudel (Izia Higelin) that you see how obsessive passion can lead to torment and hatred. Rodin, you imagine was a man of few words and it is reflected in this script. Most of the dialogue is delivered non-verbally, Lindon talks quickly reserving most of his energy for moulding the clay. There are lingering scenes with close up on clay, naked models and different textures.
The cinematography and especially the use of natural light provide another dimension to the film. The light that contrasts with the heavy molten clay allows the viewer space to pause and reflect just in the same way that Vincent Lindon who takes on and delivers as Rodin pauses, reflects and moulds his sculptures.