It was screened in the main competition section of the 65th Berlin International Film Festival and was released on 1 April 2015, by Mars Distribution.
In Normandy at the end of the 19th Century, a beautiful and ambitious young chambermaid named Célestine (Lea Seydoux) enters the service of her new employers, the Lanlaire family, which consists of a bitter wife and her perverted husband. Monsieur Lanlaire has a reputation for molesting and impregnating his chambermaids, while Madame Lanlaire is known for her domineering attitude over her servants and often fires her chambermaids. She also meets the other servants: Marianne, the overweight and homely cook and the mysterious, older Joseph (Vincent Lindon), the groom, who shares a mutual attraction with Célestine.
Throughout the film, Célestine reflects on her past positions, such as to a middle-aged woman with an elderly husband who was humiliated at a train customs stop after being forced to open a box revealing her dildo. Another significant post was her satisfying employment with the sickly young Georges and his kindly grandmother. Georges became infatuated with Célestine as she took care of him and after resisting his advances at first, Célestine has sex with him, only for him to succumb to his illness and die during the act, horrifying her. Numb from the experience, she leaves the position.
In the Lanlaire household, Célestine chafes under the demanding and often unreasonable Madame Lanlaire, who frequently derides Célestine for any delay or error and refuses to let her attend the funeral of her mother. Monsieur Lanlaire quickly sets his sights on Célestine, who rebuffs his advances while secretly plotting to manipulate him. The neighbor, Captain Mauger (Patrick d'Assumçao), who has apparently bequeathed his estate to the servant, Rose after his wife left him for sleeping with her, is also interested in her. Célestine also plots to use Capt Mauger for her own ambitions, but Rose becomes jealous after Capt Mauger kills his obedient pet ferret named Kleber after a comment Célestine makes about the pet.
Célestine finds respite in gossip at the house of the village abortionist and in commiserating with Marianne. In one conversation with Marianne, she learns that Marianne was attracted to one of her old masters, but was kicked out after becoming pregnant by him and was forced to kill her baby; later, she reveals that Monsieur Lanlaire has been raping her regularly and she must get an abortion done. One night, after talking with Marianne, Célestine hears agonized screams coming from the forest, which unsettle her.
The next day, she visits Joseph and learns that he is a rabid anti-Semite and propagates anti-Dreyfus propaganda on behalf of local priests. He dreams of owning a business where he can provide a rendezvous for militant right-wing nationalists and acknowledges that he needs a woman like Célestine to make his plan a success. Later, while gossiping with the other women, Célestine learns that a local prepubescent peasant girl was violently raped, disemboweled and murdered, explaining the screams Célestine had heard at night. Célestine suspects that Joseph is the murderer, as he could be placed at the scene of the crime, but this only makes her more fascinated with him.
Rose dies and Capt Mauger admits to Célestine that Rose had disappointed him after getting a servant of her own and failed to keep up the chores she had when she was a servant. He had hoped to die before her, as he had secretly made a second will nullifying the first, ensuring that Rose would inherit nothing. Capt Mauger offers for Célestine to work for him in the same work and sexual arrangement than Rose had with him, but Célestine only promises to think about it, satisfied with her manipulation of him.
Ultimately, she professes her attraction to Joseph and begs to join him. After having sex with her, he has Célestine assist him in the theft of the Lanlaire's silverware that would fund his plan, a theft which is blamed on a pair of famous French thieves. Joseph shoots dead both the dogs. Police start the probe into the dacoity. The police ask Lanlaires whether they suspected anyone from the household , especially Joseph but they give him a clean chit saying that he had been with them for 15 years and he is very devoted and trustworthy. The police get no clues even after several days of investigation. The case is closed unsolved. Joseph quits his position later and Célestine bides her time waiting for him, befriending Madame Lanlaire to get in her good graces before telling her that she is engaged to be married and must soon quit. One night, she sees Joseph's signal through her window and joins him, ruminating that she has been out-manipulated, acknowledging that he is a devil, but he has her completely in his grasp. They leave for Cherbourg and the carriage disappears into the darkness.Léa Seydoux as Célestine
Vincent Lindon as Joseph
Clotilde Mollet as Madame Lanlaire
Hervé Pierre as Monsieur Lanlaire
Mélodie Valemberg as Marianne
Patrick d'Assumçao as Captain Mauger
Vincent Lacoste as Georges
Joséphine Derenne as Madame Mendelssohn
Dominique Reymond as the recruiter
Rosette as Rose
Adriana Asti as the madam
Aurélia Petit as the mistress
On 9 February 2013, it was announced Benoît Jacquot would direct a film based on the 1900 novel The Diary of a Chambermaid. Producer Kristina Larsen stated that "Jacquot’s version will be the most faithful adaptation of Mirbeau’s novel". In February 2013, Marion Cotillard was in talks to play the central character Célestine, but later dropped out of the film over scheduling conflicts with Macbeth. On 5 February 2014, director Benoît Jacquot confirmed in an interview Diary of a Chambermaid will begin shooting in the forthcoming summer, with Léa Seydoux and Vincent Lindon joining the cast of the film. On 10 April, Cineuropa reported that the Île-de-France Region’s Support Fund for the Film and Audiovisual Technical Industry added €440,000 to the film's funding.
Principal photography commenced on 10 June 2014 and concluded on 30 July. Filming took place in northern France (the heritage railway Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme, Le Crotoy, and Berck) and also at locations in and around Paris.
On 14 January 2015, it was announced that Diary of a Chambermaid had been selected to be screened in competition at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival.
The film was released to cinemas on 1 April 2015 in France.
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 78%, based on 9 reviews, with an average score of 5.2/10. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 46, based on 4 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
The A.V. Club's Ignatiy Vishnevetsky opined that the film "lacks a unifying principle, as though the director were too eager to address subtexts to bother with text," and concluded: "Nominally, Diary Of A Chambermaid is about the moral rot hiding below, but its most lasting impressions come from surface pleasures and barely motivated flourishes of style."