One could write a lot about “Olivia”: the forgotten, rediscovered gem of lesbian cinematography, a film version of a semi-autobiographical novel by Dorothy Strachey that shook the British literary world in 1949 and also inspired André Aciman to write “Call Me By Your Name” (for a moment he even considered entitling his novel “Oliver”). Let’s start the easiest way then – from the plot. A teenage girl named Olivia arrives at a finishing school to complete her education. The school is divided between competing (or maybe in love with each other?) teachers: composed and calm Julia and hysterical and weak Cara. Which camp will Olivia join?
The film amazes and enraptures with its idyllic atmosphere. The girls spend their time on mutual meals, walks, excursions and poetry reading. In this sapphic, Lesbos-like enclave with no men around, there is no place for worries – that is apart from turbulent – for youthful, first loves. The girls know, since they are well-born maidens at the end of the 19th century, that there are somewhere future husbands awaiting them, but as one of the ex-students says, they can be happy regardless of the presence of men. This picture of a space, where same-sex love is not only not questioned but is a norm, is still fresh and revolutionary, even though it was made over 70 years ago.
🏆 BAFTA Awards 1953 – BAFTA Film Award – Best Foreign Actress – Edwige Feuillère, Nominee
Dorothy Bussy, Colette Audry, Pierre Laroche
Edwige Feuillère, Simone Simon, Marie-Claire Olivia, Yvonne de Bray