Many know him as the father of Impressionism, but Claude Monet— “weakened by age and blindness, paralysed by mourning”, as fellow artist Paul Cézanne put it—was simply an eye, and it would be this very eye that would become his undoing.
Directed by Giovanni Troilo, Water Lilies of Monet: Magic of Water & Light offers the viewer a glimpse into the life of a young, rebellious boy turned tortured soul, journeying—together with narrator Elisa Lasowski—down the Seine, upon the banks he lived his entire life.
A montage of footage, a haunting soundtrack, and a slow but purposeful boat journey. Shots sweeping over vistas and snaking their way along the river that was Monet’s life-blood, pausing briefly at destinations along the way – Normandy, La Havre, Paris, Giverny.
The documentary is an intimate homage to the monumental life of Claude Monet: the maternal orphan, the widower, the man enraged by the weather—which he endeavoured to capture in burdened brushstrokes, the peacekeeper, the bent man hidden-away from the bloodshed of the Great War within the walls of his meticulously groomed garden.
A man shrouded in grief and mourning.
His star-crossed love affair with water began as a school boy, exchanging the classroom to sit by the sea, painting the people of Normandy. The story delves into his innate need to capture nature’s essence in a single moment— harmonising light, water and air on canvas.
This impossible feat would only lead to an obsession to control and domesticate the elements and a tormented relationship with the world itself and the gift he was given— his eye.
The film opens with an anonymous passage:
If you decide to dedicate your life to nature this does not necessarily make you a better man.
You decide to free your soul to escape the reins of order to pursue it, to catch its breath.
But if you believe you can master its laws you are, in fact, deceiving yourself.
This sentiment echoes throughout the depiction of the great master’s life and is embodied completely in the cultivation of his garden. Some call it a collection of light, others refer to it as a utopian escape from the war that raged beyond its bounds. It was here, in his distorted reality, that Monet discovered beauty in the water-lily. From the bloom that could synchronise water and light sprung an entirely renewed perception of his world, and while Monet’s vision faltered, his art flourished.
Elisa Lasowski introduces us to Water Lilies of Monet: Magic of Water & Light as “a story that begins in a garden, and in a garden it ends.”
Through Monet’s greatest legacy, Le Bassin aux Nympheas, we are “carried away from reality we dive into a reflection – a phantasm of water and light,” Elisa says.
“That light – his light – is ours at last.”
This visual masterpiece—capturing the essence of Monet – inspires and educates audiences, while simultaneously evoking states of elevation, depression and conflict, as we really see the man twisted and burdened like the weeping willow on the banks of his water-lily pond.
There is one final chance to traverse this immersive journey with an encore screening on Thursday 28th March at 11.00am at Luna Leederville.