Keira Knightley’s Colette trailer demonstrates the immense power of the pen

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Emily Reynolds
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Colette on BBC Two

A trailer for Keira Knightley’s new film, Colette, has been released – and it reminds us how truly powerful words can be.

You may not have heard of Colette – but that’s soon to change with the release of Keira Knightley’s latest film, a biopic of the Nobel Prize nominated French novelist.

Named simply Colette, the film stars Knightley as the eponymous novelist and Dominic West as her husband, Henry “Willy” Gauthier-Villars. 

The film follows Colette as she ghostwrites a novel – Claudine à l’école – about her school days: a novel that achieves national success and that Willy himself takes credit for. The book is particularly popular with young women of Colette’s own demographic – but she gets none of the attention or success.

As she gains confidence, however, Colette decides she’s not going to sit and take it. “You’ve done something important. All of those young girls, you’ve given them a voice. You should own up to it,” a friend tells her. The trailer later shows her embarking on affairs with a character played by actress Eleanor Tomlinson – which many fans seem thrilled about. 

“You thought that I could never break free? Well, you’re wrong,”  she says at the end of the trailer. “The hand that holds the pen writes history.”

Colette herself is a fascinating figure in literary history. Aside from Claudine à l’école, she wrote over 80 books – including her most famous, Gigi, which later became a film starring a then-unknown Audrey Hepburn, who Colette herself chose for the role.

She also worked as a journalist, as a public intellectual and even in music halls, playing the Claudine character for many years up and down France. As French website Complete France puts it, Colette is perhaps best known for “living precisely as she pleased”.

According to the New York Times, Colette had a “four year and thoroughly public affair” with a niece of Napoleon, “with whom she began her music hall career in a sketch miming copulation (it caused a riot at the Moulin Rouge)” – and she’s also famous for writing in bed, which we can definitely get behind.  

“I love my past. I love my present. I’m not ashamed of what I’ve had, and I’m not sad because I have it no longer,” she once wrote – and it’s this libertine spirit that the new film looks to celebrate. We can’t wait. 

Images: Bold Films