r e v i e w s

Apolonia Apolonia

by Benjamin Cataliotti

Painter Apolonia Sokol is at the center of a beautiful portrait-documentary tracing no less than thirteen years of her life as an artist, from her youth at the Lavoir Moderne Parisien to her latest exhibitions in Paris, Rome and Istanbul. The film, winner of the Documentary Festival Grand Prize at IDFA 2023 and Denmark’s nominee for the Oscars 2024, has been in cinemas since Wednesday March 27, 2024. 

 “You’ve got to love APOLONIA APOLONIA, a triple-portrait of artist(s) directed by Lea Glob, for what this documentary says about the sacrifices imposed on those chasing recognition and freedom. And how the stakes of success – artistic, political, economic – can plunder, exhaust and crush you. Unsinkable Apolonia Sokol, whom the film’s director, the young Lea Glob, thought she was filming for a few hours as a school exercise, ended up following for thirteen intense years of creation, struggle and, at times, disillusionment.

Apolonia Apolonia © Léa Glob

 “They told me that my personality was more interesting than my work”. The unprecedented vertigo of a documentary character who suddenly fears that her curse is to be a better film subject than a great artist in her own right. Fleeing her detractors, Apolonia Sokol sets off to conquer the America of the dazzling success merchants, crossing paths with a few Bluebeards ready to turn her into a painting factory, sold before she’s even signed, all this under the stunned eye of a filmmaker who is even asked – in a breathtakingly tense scene – to turn off her camera when it comes to the very sensitive question of contracts. It’s a well-known fact, at least since Goethe: you don’t sell your soul to the Devil in broad daylight.

Returning to Europe as some would return to shake off Ithaca, the painter gradually frees herself of all her reservations to emancipate herself as much as a woman. Is she annoyed to see the director filming her blossoming into her life as a mother? The latter, in turn, envies the freedom and independence her character claims at every turn. But it’s a third figure that the two women helplessly watch drown. A shadow hidden behind Sokol’s conquering figure, the activist Oksana Chatsko, a sacrificial icon of the Femen movement and close friend of the painter, proves to be the alternative heroine of this film with drawers, the one we see shining in scenes haunted by her puny gait, a luminous presence like that of the fireflies that, little by little, fade into the background. 

Never mind, then, the little academicisms that dot Apolonia Apolonia’s odyssey, that little voice-over that’s too polished, too scripted, that sometimes seems to dream of a Bohemian Paris that’s overly fantasized in the film’s opening moments. Like its heroine, the film grows, and with it, our love for a rare work that has had the merit of looking at the youth of art with astonishing sincerity and fidelity. And so much the worse if it has to wring a few tears from us.”

 Apolonia Apolonia, by Lea Glob, produced by Danish Documentary Production. In theaters since March 27, 2024.

The film will be part of the program for the “Attention Deficit Disorder” off-screen festival organized by Zoo Galerie at the Cinématographe in Nantes in December 2024.

Apolonia Apolonia © Léa Glob

Apolonia Apolonia, de Lea Glob, produit par Danish Documentary Production. En salles depuis le 27 mars 2024.
Le film fera partie du programme du festival hors champ « Attention Deficit Disorder » organisé par le centre d’art Zoo en novembre 2024.

Head image : Apolonia Apolonia © Léa Glob

  • From the issue: 107
  • Share: ,
  • By the same author:

Related articles

Petticoat Government

by Juliette Belleret

Paul Thek at MAMCO, Geneva

by Alain Berland