Sibyl

Woman as Volcano

June 5, 2019By Heidi EllisonFilm
French film Sibyl, Justine Triet, Virginie Efria
On the beautiful island of Stromboli, Sibyl (Virginie Efira) has a moment of anguish.

No wonder there is so much mistrust of psychiatrists when the French keep making films like Sibyl, directed by Justine Triet.

Sibyl (Virginie Efira) is a novelist turned shrink who wants to write another novel, so she dumps most of her patients. She does, however, take on one new client, the always-sobbing actor Margot (Adèle Exarchopoulos) because her situation interests Sibyl and, we discover later, echoes one of her own past experiences. Sibyl begins recording their sessions so she can vampirize her story. Margot is pregnant by her co-star, Igor (Gaspard Ulliel) in the film she is shooting, directed by Igor’s partner, Mika (Sandra Hüller), and wants Sybil to tell her whether or not she should have an abortion.

This is only the beginning of Sibyl’s outrageously unprofessional behavior, which gives new meaning to the word “unethical.” She eventually becomes intimately involved in Margot’s life, to the point of traveling, at Margot’s request, to the volcanic island of Stromboli (great scenery!) to support her during the making of the film. Sybil becomes involved with practically the whole cast and crew, screwing up her own life even more, to the point where we begin to wonder if she is just another crazy woman, a theme so popular in French films.

Constant, confusing cutting back and forth between past and present with no transitions makes it extremely difficult to follow the plot and understand what is going on in Sibyl. 

This isn’t the first time that Triet has made a film about a screwed-up professional woman. In her last movie reviewed here, Victoria, Efira played a criminal lawyer who gets temporarily disbarred for her misdeeds. That film had a similar frantic feeling to it as it described the gradual disintegration of another smart, beautiful woman, as did Safy Nebbou’s recent film Celle que Vous Croyez (Who You Think I Am), with Juliette Binoche.

The French critics either hated or loved Sibyl, mostly the latter. with one even going so far as to compare it to the work of John Cassavetes and Tennessee Williams. I beg to differ, and would align myself with the first camp. It’s not a boring movie, but after an hour and 40 minutes, you just feel duped. But those shots of Stromboli, which always looks like it’s about to blow, sure were beautiful!

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