Stella has the stuff of melodrama. Of course,
it isn't as neatly constructed as a Chaplin film, but its basic
narrative elements are the same. Stella spends her days begging
at the Oberkampf metro station, but no one really sees her, just
as no one sees the blind woman selling flowers in "City Lights".
She has left everything behind for love. She has chosen to live
illegally in France for her husband who was stricken with a serious
illness, convinced she would find a doctor in this country able
to save his life. She manages but at what cost? She herself soon
falls ill. Without a job or money, with no legal status,
she waits for her treatment to end so she can return to Romania.
Thus begins an endless wait. Stella has to learn to live against
her own principles whilst in constant fear of identity controls.
While the film renders her anguish and suffering palpable, it
also portrays a woman who never gives up, who is determined to
solve her problems one after the other, with the means she has
available. Underneath her exhausted frame, there lies an iron
Most of the film takes place inside Stella's house, a shack in
a shantytown in Saint Denis, trapped between the motorway and
the suburban railway tracks. It unveils her daily life, and much
more: what we perceive as a permanent and degrading situation,
Stella sees as a transition, a moment in time suspended between
her past as a factory worker in Romania “ruined” by
the fall of Ceaucescu and the subsequent transition to liberal
economy, and her future as a pensioner in Braila.
This is a woman who has always had faith in her star, and her
star is Love.
The opening shot of the film is of an anxious Stella, waiting
in the rain for Marcel. One of the last sequences shows Stella
and Marcel, sitting together on a bench in the courtyard of the
Salpetrière Hospital, just before Stella has an operation.
Their love is stronger than any test that Fate, Law or History
Yann Lardeau, for the Cinéma
du réel 2007, international documentary film Festival