Venice Film Festival: Planetarium

Directed by Rebecca Zlotowski
Starring Natalie Portman, Lily-Rose Depp, Emmanuel Salinger andLouis Garrel

by Laura Patricia Jones

Pretty and pleasing, Rebecca Zlotowski’s supernatural period piece Planetarium is a stunning spectacle for the senses.

One thing to say about Zlotowski’s film is that it’s pretty, oh so very pretty.  It takes two stunning actresses – Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp – throws them in 1930’s France, costumes them beautifully, splits the dialogue between French and English, shoots them in soft lighting – you’ve got something very gorgeous to watch… no matter what the content. Which is perhaps where I was led astray with the supernatural thriller which, much like my taste in men, is very nice to look at but lacks substance.

The film follows the journey of the Barlow sisters, Laura (Natalie Portman) and Kate (Lily-Rose Depp), who are believed to possess the supernatural ability to connect with ghosts. Making money from holding séances and shows, they cross paths with a visionary French producer Andre Korben (Emmanuel Salinger) while performing in Paris. The pair move in with him and Laura begins to work for his studio as an actress while the young Kate’s gifts are explored further and experimented on. Meanwhile, Korben is found not to be French at all, but of Jewish origin at a time when pre-war Europe is heading toward the inevitable.  And that’s about it. There’s a hazy attempt to show the struggles of artists representing new work during that era, but the visually stunning shots and French setting along the backdrop of hedonistic parties makes it all a little murky.

Portman holds the piece together with her strong presence, and Depp kind of clings along as a doll-like side kick. But, the relationship is very believable and if you didn’t know otherwise, you would be easily convinced that the two could be sisters in real life.

Planetarium should be viewed more as a piece of art than a feature film. It’s very pleasing, it ticks the right boxes, arouses the senses, makes you want to run around 1930’s France in red lipstick and lavish clothing – but other than that, the story is flat and the plot leaves little to be desired.

Watch Planetarium if you fancy lulling yourself into a pleasant sleep, or play it at the back of a costume party while serving martinis – other than that, I’m left drawing a blank.




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