Physical Storytelling in Céline Sciamma’s Coming-Of-Age Trilogy


Oswald Iten


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Accompanying text

Céline Sciamma has made herself a name as an excellent screenwriter providing sensitive dialogue for Claude Barras’ MA VIE DE COURGETTE (2016) or her own masterpiece PORTRAIT DE LA JEUNE FILLE EN FEU (2019). In her coming-of-age films, however, the most important means of expression is the human body.

Based on an extensive analysis of NAISSANCE DES PIEUVRES (2007), TOMBOY (2011) and BANDE DE FILLES (2014), I attempt to provide a subjective, non-theoretical overview of how Sciamma tells her stories in a corporeal, physical way. Of course, beyond my general observations, there is much more to these images (costume design, colors, ambiguity, precise decisions when to show nudity) which I hope will present themselves to you and drive you to (re-)watch the actual films. There are countless scenes worth analyzing more closely.

After an introduction to each film, there are five “movements” – MOVING, LOOKING, TOUCHING, PERFORMING, TRANSFORMING – and an EPILOGUE that hints at a shift towards more articulated characters in Sciamma’s own feature films (not including her short film PAULINE (2010) which is all dialogue).

Note: Thanks to Katharina Lindner’s essential book “Film Bodies: Queer Feminist Encounters with Gender and Sexuality in Cinema” (2017) for clarifying some of my linguistic issues as a German speaker.