27 April — 09 May, DCA
Let The Sunshine In (Un beau soleil intérieur) is the sun and all her strength; raw and revealing, it exposes the destructivity of ‘the affaire’ culture. Directed by the highly revered Claire Denis, the film received the SACD award at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. A loose adaptation of Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, Let The Sunshine In is uncompromising, often uncomfortably so, in its portrayal of romance. It is ambitious, and yet, this feature film accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do; it sheds light on the disparity between intimacy and idealism.
Isabelle (Juliette Binoche) captivates men. Perhaps it is her dress—the see-through white tank in stark contrast with black leather jacket, skirt, and heels—that suggests a free-spiritedness within. This allure attracts certain men throughout the film because it epitomises their deepest desire: to be as free as they believe their lover to be, free from love to lust and lose. Isabelle is as piercing as her candour is hypnotic, however, Binoche’s careful performance enables the audience to see that her character is anything but free. Her whimsicality conjoined with insecurity holds this seemingly ‘loose’ artist prisoner to a loneliness so strong it overwhelms her to the point of desperation.
Cesar award-winning cinematographer Agnès Godard deserves applause for her attention to the montage of break-up, brush-off moments shared between Isabelle and her ‘Other.’ The film often transitions from long to close-up shots where facial features capture the vulnerability of each character’s most intimate version of themselves, interspersed in sequences of silence and sound. The entire film is depicted in a series of fragments through which the emotionally-wrought, middle-aged protagonist struggles to differentiate sex from sentimentality. The screen time is separated by staccato sequences of physical action followed by an emotionally-draining argument, and it is the recognisability of this that absorbs the audience. In instances where one might feel like an intruder, Godard’s careful cinematography detaches the viewer from the scene whilst simultaneously upholding the immersive quality of this composition.
Let The Sunshine In compares ‘the One’ with ‘any other’ by scrutinising Isabelle’s search for love. With each impulsive relationship, an audience may begin to wonder whether the protagonist is ever given a chance of finding someone to love not only her archetypal sexuality, but also her very self. This is intentional. The feature is not about the married man (Xavier Beauvois), the elusive actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle), the noncommittal artist (Alex Descas), or a list of other men who manipulate her vulnerability for a night—a life—in her bed, and in her bed only.
If there’s criticism to be levelled at Let The Sunshine In, it is in regard to its extensive, sometimes exhaustive, focus on nudity and intercourse. Despite the fact that the film does invite the inclusion of these elements with its emphasis on the emotional damages of casual sex, the film’s theme—in all its intellectuality—seemed to lose itself at times, with the raw exposure of sex often cheapening the sophisticated tone of the film. Yet, it is clear that Let The Sunshine In is more than a commentary on contemporary romance. Its narrative and consequent narration is, indeed, intentional. Isabelle’s inconsistency is perhaps the most predictable thing about the film, and Binoche’s fluidity in this role speaks to her strength. Let The Sunshine In reaches the climax at the denouement with its experimental final credit roll. Here, a spiritualist leaves Isabelle in a state of turmoil. His words remain with viewers and in leaving the theatre they, like Isabelle, question his thoughts on loneliness, longing and love.