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Adèle Haenel Stopped Making Movies Because Industry Is ‘Reactionary, Racist, and Patriarchal’

"By leaving this industry for good, I want to take part in another world, in another cinema," the actress said.

PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE, (aka PORTRAIT DE LA JEUNE FILLE EN FEU), Adele Haenel, 2019. © Neon / courtesy Everett Collection

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”

Courtesy Everett Collection

Adèle Haenel captivated the film world with her stunning performance in Céline Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” but has not appeared in a movie since 2019. While the French actress has certainly been missed, don’t expect to see her in a new film anytime soon. In a recent interview with German magazine FAQ (via The Film Stage), Haenel revealed that she walked away from the industry due to the way she felt women and minorities were treated.

“I don’t make films anymore,” Haenel said. “Because of political reasons. Because the film industry is absolutely reactionary, racist, and patriarchal. We are mistaken if we say that the powerful are of goodwill, that the world is indeed moving in the right direction under their good and sometimes unskillful management. Not at all. The only thing that moves society structurally is social struggle. And it seems to me that in my case, to leave is to fight. By leaving this industry for good, I want to take part in another world, in another cinema.”

Her next film was slated to be “The Empire,” a new science-fiction movie from director Bruno Dumont. However, she exited that project due to disagreements about the subject matter and cast. The process appears to have been the last straw for an actress who was already extremely frustrated with her industry.

“At first, I thought it looked like a lot of fun: a kind of Luke Skywalker in space,” she said of the project. “The problem is that behind this funny facade, it was a dark, sexist, and racist world that was defended. The script was full of jokes about cancel culture and sexual violence. I tried to discuss it with Dumont, because I thought a dialogue was possible. I wanted to believe for the umpteenth time that it was not intentional. But it’s intentional. This disregard is deliberate.”

Haenel will continue to act in theater and is open to someday making independent films with collaborators she knows well enough to trust their intentions. But for now, she doesn’t feel like she can continue to participate in the film industry in good conscience.

“If I stayed today in this film industry, I would be a kind of feminist guarantee to this masculine and patriarchal industry,” she said. “My dream is to make it clear: This industry defends a capitalist, patriarchal, racist, sexist world of structural inequality. This means that this industry works hand in hand with the global economic order, in which all lives are not equal.”

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