The troubled life of French sculptor Camille Claudel and her long relationship with legendary sculptor Auguste Rodin are portrayed in this passionate biographical drama, featuring an acclaimed performance by Isabelle Adjani. Beginning in the 1880s with a young Claudel's first meeting with Rodin, the film traces the development of their intense romantic bond.
The growth of this relationship coincides with the rise of Claudel's career, helping her overcome prejudices against female artists. However, their romance soon sours, due to the increasing pressures of Rodin's fame and his love for another woman.
These difficulties combine with her increasing doubts about the value of her work to drive Claudel into an emotional tumult that threatens to become insanity. First-time director Bruno Nuytten had previously served as a cinematographer, and he brings this experience to bear in his loving presentation of Claudel's sculpture and the lavish period setting.
The dramatic approach is in tune with the impressive visuals, which present Claudel's life as a grandiose melodrama, a transformation that irritated some critics. However, few questioned the film's value as a dramatic showcase for Adjani, whose fervent portrayal was rewarded with an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
The American release version was cut to 159 minutes.