The image of the tortured artist has been prevalent in all fields of art and culture. It is taken for granted that in order to be a notable artist, one has suffer through some form of unimaginable pain preferably a broken heart. Mental health professionals from all over the world also recognise that resident within every single individual is residual trauma from their childhood.
Josephine, the protagonist of the film, suffers from depression but attempts to resist her demons, to not let them overpower her. Her father is absent, and a bulk of her mother’s attention is directed towards a sister who is mentally disabled. She is an average child, not exceptionally good – but somehow comfortable with her ordinariness. There are things that trouble her, but then there are things that trouble everyone living in this world. As a director begins to cast for a play, he immediately senses in her a quality: perhaps blankness, or some damage, which makes him cast her as Camellia, the lead character. Josephine, in order to identify with the role she is playing, tries to become Camellia. The director in turn pushes her continuously towards the edge; demanding of her that she relive and reactivate her trauma so as to extract ‘true art’ from inside her. She begins to comply.
Camillia is a character who has undergone sexual abuse, and becomes, because of this, a sexual predator. This truth begins to color the existence of Josephine too. She dresses up like Camille, goes around bars looking for hookups and repeats lines from the play to lure men in. Eventually, however, she begins to mutate into an individual who is contemptible, and genuinely vile – someone else, but not herself.
The film’s central thesis – the necessity of masochism and torture within artistic practice – is pursued, through a deft touch, in two possible directions: its valorization, but also, its condemnation. I suspect it may have to do with the viewer’s own sensibility which one they perceive with greater gravity and depth.