Seraphine is a magnificent film of what was to me an unknown French artist,Seraphine Louis,an impoverished cleaner,who was an extraordinary naïve painter.Self-taught,inspired by her religious faith,she had an inner compulsion to express divinely inspired visions through painting,reflections of a psyche walking a tightrope between ecstasy and mental illness.Alongside her arduous day jobs,Seraphine(Yolande Moreau) painted by candlelight,largely in secret isolation,until her considerable body of work was discovered by William Uhde(Ulrich Tukur),German art collector,who was mesmerized.
For most of her life, Séraphine painted in total obscurity, scrimping together enough money from the various types of menial labor on which she subsisted to buy a few art supplies. She mixed these with pigments of her own devising, colors distilled from plant and animal sources familiar to Séraphine from years of tending flocks and other outdoor work. These vibrant colors, which struck Uhde's eye as so unusual, are one of the hallmarks of her work. The subject of almost all of her paintings is the flora of the region where she lived, generally viewed from close up and refracted through the bizarre lens of Séraphine's inner vision. She claimed that heavenly voices directed her to paint, visions that later became delusions strong enough to land her in a mental asylum in Clermont, where she died after a long incarceration. These plants, often dotted and striped like caterpillars or other insects, seem to quiver with life, making them seem more like the fauna of a psychotic landscape.
His support had barely begun to lift her horizons when he was forced to leave France in August 1914; the war between France and Germany had made him an unwelcome outsider in Senlis, much as Séraphine was, given her eccentric persona. They only reestablished contact in 1927 when Uhde - back in France and living in Chantilly - visited an exhibition of local artists in Senlis and, seeing Séraphine's work, realized that she had survived and her art had flourished. Under Uhde's patronage, Séraphine began painting large canvases as large as two meters high, and she achieved prominence as the naïve painter of her day. In 1929, Uhde organized an exhibition,"Painters of the Sacred Heart," that featured Séraphine's art, launching her into a period of financial success she had never known - and was ill prepared to manage. Then, in 1930, with the effects of the Great Depression destroying the finances of her patrons, Uhde had no choice except to stop buying her paintings.
In 1932, Séraphine was admitted for "chronic psychosis" to the psychiatric ward of a geriatric hospital at Clermont, where her artistry found no outlet. Although Uhde reported that she had died in 1934, Séraphine actually lived until 1942 in a hospital annex at Villers-sous-Erquery, where she died friendless and alone[. (Some sources still state she died in 1934.) She was buried in a common grave.Yolande Moreau's performance touches the heart, witness the scene in the special asylum when she touches the chair on the balcony of her room.Ulrich Tukur(Lives of Others) is superb as Uhde. If I have one criticism it's that I thought many of the interior scenes were too darkly lit,although this enhances realism,I couldn't see the paintings with enough clarity.A winner of 7 French Academy awards,with best actress and best picture.