Movie review | Berlinale Blogger
"Seven Veils": close the curtain

Seven Veils
© Amanda Matlovich / Headless Films Inc.

"Seven Veils" is the latest feature film from prolific Canadian director Atom Egoyan. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2023 before being screened at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival in 2024.

By Félix Dufort and Alicia Salvucci

The film follows the story of Jeanine (Amanda Seyfried), a stage director who finds herself having to direct a reinterpretation of the opera Salome, which was previously staged by her drama teacher, an unhealthy father figure with whom she had a romantic relationship. Through the creative process, Jeanine draws on her traumatic relationship with her biological father to bring her work to fruition. In other words, incest is once again exploited by Egoyan, as in several of his films such as Exotica (1994) and The Sweet Hereafter (1997). 
Splendid acting and direction  
The work's greatest strength is definitely its visual aspect. The theatrical sets are impressive and well enhanced by the cinematography. Egoyan himself has staged Salome eight times, the first in 1996 and the last in 2023 for the Canadian Opera Company of Toronto. It was on this occasion that he filmed the theatrical scenes in the film. A second very successful aspect of the film is the performance of its lead actor: Amanda Seyfried. She puts a lot of effort into her performance and skilfully manages to demonstrate the complexity of Jeanine's emotions and the narrative arc she goes through in the course of the story. You can sense that she has given herself over to her role, having had already worked with Egoyan on Chloé (2009), another film exploring problematic romantic relationships.    

Significant weaknesses   

Despite these strengths, Seven Veils has a number of weaknesses that work against it. Its most glaring flaw is the way in which the theme of rape is approached. This theme is central to the story, as it is explored by several characters, including Jeanine. Unfortunately, this subject is poorly explored despite the fact that it is presented in an original way. A subject as disturbing as this needs to be approached delicately and with reason, but the director says nothing profound about it, reducing it to a narrative device as in his other films. Secondly, there is a serious flaw in the execution of the script. While the concept is out of the ordinary and full of promise, the story never reaches its full potential and the writing seems slapdash, to the point where you too often get the impression that you're watching a video recording of the opera. This impression is reinforced towards the end, which brings the narrative arc of the characters to an awkward conclusion, all of them lacking substance except Jeanine.   
Ultimately, Seven Veils is a film that had a lot to offer with its original concept, the convincing presence of Amanda Seyfried and Egoyan as director. But there are other films tackling similar subjects - Like the excellent Women Talking (2022), that are more worthy of seeing.