Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Portrait de la jeune fille en feu) is an exquisite film, that’s both beautifully crafted and emotionally cunning. It's also one of the best films of the year.
This rich period piece of 18th century France is a moving portrait of the human connection. Director Céline Sciamma captures the very essence of love and heartbreak. Actors Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel are powerful from the first to the final frame. This thought-provoking drama is one of the very best to be released this fall season. In the end, it will steal your heart. France, 1760. Marianne (a powerful Noémie Merlant) is commissioned to paint the wedding portrait of Héloïse (a fierce Adèle Haenel), a young woman who has just left the convent. Because Héloïse is a reluctant bride-to-be, Marianne arrives under the disguise of companionship, observing Héloïse by day and secretly painting her by firelight at night.
Later in the film, as the two women orbit one another, intimacy and attraction grow and Héloïse finally breaks free of her pain. Héloïse's portrait guided by Marianne's steady hand soon becomes a collaborative bond and a testament to their love for one another. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a richly rewarding masterpiece that avoids the stereotypical tropes of the 'male gaze'. This is all because of director Céline Sciamma's vivid vision for the film, as she gives it an underlying theme of gentleness and passion. Sciamma is also in a relationship with actress Adèle Haenel (Héloïse in the film). These two aspects allowed Sciamma to showcase the perspective of a woman's heart and mind through the eyes of a female director and an exclusively female cast. This slow-burning portrait of love and heartache seeps right into your bones.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire showcases its exquisite storytelling, vivid characters, and beautiful scenery — all to come full circle and to ignite the flame inside you. As we travel from scene to scene the sensation builds and the continuous fire crackles louder. A roaring period piece full of life, love, and heartbreak; Portrait of a Lady on Fire receives 5 stars from me. Portrait is an essay on the 'female gaze' and is one that should be studied for future films to follow. Sciamma guides her poetic hand throughout the picture, while Merlant and Haenel dig deep into their marvelous performances. They're intoxicating as is this movie. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a deeply stirring romance full of feminism and spiritual awakening. Portrait will be shown for exclusive one-week engagements in New York & Los Angeles beginning December 6 and in theaters everywhere Valentine's Day 2020. In Portrait de la jeune fille en feu, body language is crucial and love is forever.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire is rated R (Restricted). For some nudity and sexuality.
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