Contemporary World Cinema

Marie Curie, The Courage of Knowledge

Marie Noëlle

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Polish actress Karolina Gruszka stars in this sweeping biography of the legendary, Nobel Prize–winning physicist and chemist, who courted controversy with both her challenging of France’s male-dominated academic establishment and her unconventional romantic life.

Physicist, chemist, and pioneer in the study of radioactivity, Marie Sklodowska Curie spent her life setting precedents. She was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize and the first person to win it twice. As the first female professor at the University of Paris, she had to overcome the condescension and antagonism of France's male-dominated academic establishment. She also courted controversy of the sort that still threatens to quash the careers of public figures today. This sweeping biography brings to life Curie's inspiring story of discovery, heartbreak, and triumph.

Marie Curie, The Courage of Knowledge depicts the blissful union between Marie (Karolina Gruszka) and her husband Pierre (Charles Berling), the father of her children, her partner in research, and co-winner of that first Nobel. When Pierre perishes in a tragic accident, it's up to Marie to continue their work. But as a woman and a foreigner, she's met with doubly fierce resistance. And though she perseveres, she's nearly undone by revelations regarding her relationship with a married colleague.

Director Marie Noëlle conjures turn-of-the-century Europe with camerawork whose restless precision is an analogue of the brilliant scientist's mind. Split-screen compositions slide like shoji doors, and lyrical montages emphasize the momentousness of Marie's innovations. At the centre of all this activity is, of course, Marie herself. Gruszka's performance, alternately stoic and vulnerable, never lets us forget that this visionary woman was also very much a complicated and fascinating human being.

JANE SCHOETTLE

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