Violette is the latest film from award-winning French director Martin Provost (Séraphine, Le ventre de Juliette). Set in post-war Paris it depicts the life of feminist force and writer, Violette Leduc, including her encounters with Simone de Beauvior.
Emmanuelle Devos is triumphant in her portrayal of Violette. We are welcomed to encounter her unashamedly brazen presence right from the opening scene where she stomps her way across the screen, slams doors and makes her presence known. This continues throughout where we see Violette behave as if she has no societal norms laid down upon her – something some of us can only dream about.
In this biographical drama, Provost embraces Violette and her non-conformist lifestyle delving into her illegal dealings in the black-market trade and her unyielding determination for survival as an independent woman.
The film takes you on a journey through twenty years of Violette’s writing career showing her struggle with publishers along with her fight to gain recognition. However, we are also welcomed to view the intimate side of Leduc’s life, especially her relationship with Simone de Beauvior. The moments between Sandrine Kiberlain (Simone) and Devos are given an abundance of screen time and treated with such tenderness and respect that is far too rarely seen in films. This unrequited love story becomes that of friendship and admiration and it is encouraging to see a film dedicated to showing women helping and inspiring one another.
Violette Leduc is often forgotten as one of the first women to write about her sexuality in such a personal manner, and underappreciated especially in her frankness of writing about her sexual encounters with women. Fortunately Provost does not cut this out but explores it in depth by normalising the fluidity of sexuality and never seeing the need for labels, to quote from the film “I thought you liked women?” to which Violette replies “Not just women.”
Violette was a shining light of female empowerment and thankfully this comes through on screen. This is a film of love, ladies and literature – what more could you ask for?