French actress bows out in protest at predators

Adèle Haenel blasts industry’s complacency

by Richard Mowe

Adèle Haenel: 'I delete you from my world. I'm leaving, I'm going on strike, I'm joining my comrades for whom the search for meaning and dignity outweighs that of money and power'
Adèle Haenel: 'I delete you from my world. I'm leaving, I'm going on strike, I'm joining my comrades for whom the search for meaning and dignity outweighs that of money and power' Photo: Richard Mowe
After two years away from the spotlight French actress Adèle Haenel, who notably starred opposite Noémie Merlant in Céline Sciama’s Portrait Of A Lady on Fire, has announced that she has decided to “retire from cinema” partly as a protest against “the profession’s widespread complacency toward sexual predators”.

Haenel, 34, who recently has been seen recently on the barricades in Paris as part of the street protests against President Macron’s pension reforms, said in an open letter to the weekly magazine Telérama: “I delete you from my world. I'm leaving, I'm going on strike, I'm joining my comrades for whom the search for meaning and dignity outweighs that of money and power.”

Since 2019 Haenel has been working with choreographer Gisèle Vienne, a collaboration that has provided artistic fulfilment in a way that cinema has been unable to. She accuses the film industry of “vacuity and cruelty” but Haenel has vowed to continue her stage career.

In happier times at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018 for Pierre Salvadori’s screwball comedy Trouble With You
In happier times at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018 for Pierre Salvadori’s screwball comedy Trouble With You Photo: Richard Mowe
Haenel was only 13 when she played in her first film Devils, by Christophe Ruggia, whom she accused of sexually assaulting her (the director has consistently denied her claims). She followed on with Water Lilies, the first film by Céline Sciamma. Five years, three plays and six films later (among them House Of Tolerance by Bertrand Bonello and Suzanne by Katell Quillévéré, for which she received the César of Best Actress in a Supporting Role in 2014), Haenel has been at the Cannes Film Festival for many films, Love at First Fight by Thomas Cailley and French Riviera by André Téchiné.

The veteran director considered her to be “a new Isabelle Adjani.” She returned to work with Sciamma on the award-laden Portrait Of A Lady on Fire which won her co-star a Lumière award as best actress.

She has form as a voice of protest. At the ceremony for the French Oscars, the Césars in 2020 she and Sciamma walked out in protest at the award of a best director statuette to Roman Polanski for An Officer And A Spy.

She has accused cinema’s power brokers of preferring that protesters “continue to disappear and die in silence”.

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