Simone: Woman of the century is an important film telling the inspiring story of an important woman who defied the odds (and death at Auschtwitz), broke barriers and crammed a lot into her 89 years. The film is also known as Simone: The journey of the century (Simone – Le voyage du siècle) and Simone, a Woman of the Century (Simone, une femme du siècle).
Director Olivier Dahan is no stranger to biopics having directed the Edith Piaf biopic La Vie en Rose (La Môme) which was released in 2007 and also Grace of Monaco (Grace de Monaco) in 2014. This film is nominated at the Cesar awards, which will be held later this month, for Best Production Design (Christian Marti) and Best Costume Design (Gigi Lepage).
Simone’s time in Auschwitz is interspersed throughout the film and it’s easy to see how her harrowing ordeal there informed the kindness and passion that she went on to embody in all of her life’s works thereafter. It must have been difficult to decide which parts of her life were included and those that weren’t and the film at a running time of 2 hours 20 minutes does an impressive job of showing many of her achievements and her struggles. From pushing to make abortion legal in France in a mostly male parliament, to overhauling the French prison system to give prisoner’s access to proper health care and hygiene and later advocating for the rights and fair treatment of people with HIV/AIDS.
The actresses Elsa Zylberstein, who played Simone Veil between 1968-2006, and Rebecca Marder, who played the younger Simone Jacob from 1942-1967, did so persuasively. Judith Chemla. who played her sister Milou, was also impressive – we could feel her heart-wrecnching pain through her facial expressions and piercing eyes.
The film darts between an older Simone sitting on her verandah by the sea writing notes in her notebook and the various moments of her life. We understand in the film that in those seaside scenes, she is writing a memoir and we know that in fact she wrote several. The film is narrated as if we are reading the words she is writing and we wonder whether the narrated words are in fact hers from her own memoirs – this much was unfortunately not made clear in the credits so we are unsure.
Scenes depicting Jewish people crammed into stuffy train carriages awaiting their fate and marching into the concentration camps were filmed in an almost sepia-like way. This gave them an ethereal feel, even though we know it was unfortunately all too real. It effectively made it feel like we were watching historic imagery from the time.
While Simone may have survived the war, this is not a film solely about it. However, you can see how her treatment at the hands of the Nazis as a teenager shaped the woman she was to become fighting for humanity and dignity for all. Simone: Woman of the century showcases the life and achievements of the inspiring Simone Weil and is worth watching to learn more about her alone.
Matilda Marseillaise received access to a screener of Simone: Woman of the century for the purposes of reviewing it.
You can see Simone: Woman of the century Showing at Europa! Europa In Melbourne and Sydney this February and March.
KEY INFO FOR EUROPA! EUROPA 2023
WHAT: Europa! Europa 2023 – a European film festival
WHERE: In Melbourne (Classic Cinemas, Elsternwick and Lido Cinemas, Hawthorn); and in Sydney (Ritz Cinemas, Randwick).
WHEN: 16 February – 7 March 2023
HOW: Buy your film tickets at www.europafilmfestival.com.au
HOW MUCH: Ticket prices are as follows:
Single film tickets:
- Adults $24
- Concession and Classic, Lido and Ritz Cinemas members $18.50
- 10 film pass $175 ($17.50 per ticket)
- 20 film pass $330 ($16.50 per ticket)
- Festival pass (1x redemption on each of the 29 films) $400
To find out more about Europa! Europa, read our article
For other events with French and Francophone links happening in Australia this month, check out our What’s on in February article