Keira Knightly, Dominic West, Fiona Shaw
After moving to Paris, author Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette agrees to ghostwrite a semi-autobiographical novel for her husband. Its success soon inspires her to fight for creative ownership and overcome the societal constraints of the early 20th century.
What a superb movie. It's one of those films which really makes you think about gender roles and society. Knightly and West have done a fantastic job with director Wash expertly controlling the helm. Character and story development was spot on as was the pace of the film. Most would rightly agree that the film revolves around the central character Colette who was one of the greatest female writers in French literature. The other subject matter is how society excluded women from pretty much everything.
It is shocking to see how badly women were treated in the twentieth century. This movie really made me question why women were treated so poorly in Paris, especially when the capital of France was known to be the melting pot of modernism, art and avant-garde. The movie doesn't really show the whole extent of how badly women were treated, so I did my own research. I recommend all to read article of Dr Kathryn Hughes titled Gender roles in the 19th century (available here). In her work, Hughes gives a good account of how women were treated in terms of education, employment, marriage, business and to prostitution. Take education as an example it was widely believed that a woman shouldn't go to university or study as this will shrink her ovaries. In terms of marriage, she isn't allowed to marry without her father's permission, and she also had to give a handsome dowry to the man.
Regarding property, she wasn't allowed to own property or business. Her role was pretty much to cook, clean, carry babies. Concerning sexuality, she was seen not to have any sexual desire or wish. I strongly disagree that we can say 'well it was the time' hence these kind of societal rules were in place. This is because as a human being we can think and reason. All men know the 9 months of hardship his mother goes through in order to bring him on to this world. Then how can the same men agree that women shouldn't have the right to education? One may say that society at that time had an influence on men. I agree that to an extent society can play an impact on the man and women, but that doesn't mean it takes away the ability of thinking, reasoning and having kindness.
Throughout the history we have had great men and women who came from dark society example Gandhi, Mother Teresa. In the 20th century, we saw the one extreme side where women were suppressed. In conclusion, go watch this movie and maybe get an appreciation of why feminists feel so strongly about the history of men suppression of women. Perhaps this could make men at least accept the idea that women did suffer and in term be more kind, generous and treat them with more gently, after all, we are a gentleman.