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Silk is a film adaptation of Italian author Alessandro Baricco's novel of the same name. It was released in September 2007 through New Line Cinema and directed by The Red Violin director, François Girard.

Silk film.jpg
A French poster for the film
Directed byFrancois Girard
Written byFrançois Girard
Michael Golding
StarringMichael Pitt
Keira Knightley
Alfred Molina
Miki Nakatani
Kōji Yakusho
Callum Keith Rennie
Music byRyûichi Sakamoto
CinematographyAlain Dostie
Edited byPia Di Ciaula
Distributed byUS: Alliance Atlantis
New Line Cinema
JP: Asmik Ace
Release date
  • September 14, 2007 (2007-09-14)
Running time
107 minutes
United Kingdom
Budget$20 million
Box office$7,965,682

American actor Michael Pitt stars in the lead role of the French silkworm smuggler Hervé Joncour, with British actress Keira Knightley as his wife, Hélène, a teacher and keen gardener.[1] Japanese actors Miki Nakatani and Kōji Yakusho are also featured. Exterior Japanese scenes were filmed in the city of Sakata. Knightley's scenes were filmed in Sermoneta, Italy, a small medieval village near Latina.



The film opens with Hervé narrating his observations of an unidentified Asian woman bathing in a hot spring, then stating that his story actually begins earlier, when he returned to his hometown in 19th century France while on leave from the army. He meets Hélène, a teacher, who wants nothing more than a garden and Hervé, who wants nothing more than to marry her.

Local businessman Baldabiou, who runs three silk mills that support the town economy, is at risk from a European-wide silkworm disease. He convinces Hervé‘s father, the mayor, to let Hervé leave the army and marry Hélène, and in 1862 Hervé travels to Egypt to purchase silkworm eggs.

Since the African silkworms are affected too, Baldabiou next sends Hervé to Japan, even though it is dangerously closed to foreigners. The journey takes months, across thousands of miles of Europe and Asia. Once there, Hervé is blindfolded and taken to a Japanese village where he can buy eggs from a local baron, Hara Jubei.

During his stay in the village he becomes obsessed with Jubei's unnamed concubine (the Girl).

Hervé returns home with an ample supply of eggs. His compensation from Baldabiou makes him rich, and he purchases a large house and garden space for Hélène.

On his second journey to Japan, the Girl gives Hervé a note in Japanese, and he has sex with another girl handed to him by her. Having traded more eggs than on his first trip, Hervé delays his departure by two days in the failed hope of seeing the Girl again.

Back home, Hervé seeks out a Japanese brothel owner in Lyon, Madame Blanche, known for giving the small blue flowers that she wears to her clients. He only wants her to translate the note for him, which reads: "Come back or I shall die." Madame Blanche advises Hervé to "forget about her, she won't die, and you know it."

Baldabiou intends to send Hervé to China, since Japan is no longer safe, but Hervé insists on Japan. When he arrives, war has broken out and the village is abandoned. Jubei's servant boy shows Hervé where Jubei and his household have gone. Jubei becomes hostile and tells Hervé to go home, refuses to show him the Girl, and hangs the servant boy. Hervé buys some eggs in Sakata, but his delays result in the eggs hatching, and all the worms dying, before he reaches France. The town’s economy is ruined, though Hervé hires many townspeople to expand Hélène's garden.

Months later, Hervé receives a long letter from the Girl. He again takes the letter to Madame Blanche for translation, who agrees, providing Hervé never comes to see her again. The letter is a deeply moving declaration of love, asking him to be happy in his life, as they will never be together again.

A few years later, Hélène becomes ill, dying, then dies in 1875, in her mid-30s. After her death, Hervé finds a tribute of small, blue flowers on her grave. He seeks out Madame Blanche once more, believing her to have written the letter, but she reveals that Hélène had written the letter and asked Madame Blanche to translate it. Hélène knew that Hervé was in love with a Japanese woman, and wanted him to be happy. Madame Blanche tells Hervé that, more than anything, his wife wanted to be that woman. Hervé finally realizes that it was Hélène who was his true love after all.

Hervé’s narration is revealed to be him recounting his story to Ludovic – the son of a friend, the closest thing to a child that Hervé and Hélène have had through the years. Ludovic, now a young man and Hélène's permanent gardener, has a greater appreciation for the love behind the garden.



Silk received mainly negative reviews from critics, as the film holds a 7% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 56 reviews. It won the Genie Award for Costumes and Prix Jutra for Sound, Cinematography, Art Direction and Costumes.


  1. ^ Ebert, Roger (2012), A Horrible Experience of Unbearable Length: More Movies That Suck, Andrews McMeel Publishing, p. 300, ISBN 1449417574.

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