Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Portrait de la jeune fille en feu)
(2019) 122 mins
Director: Céline Sciamma
Writer: Céline Sciamma
Cinematography: Claire Mathon
Production Design: Thomas Grézaud
Music: Jean-Baptiste de Laubier, Arthur Simonini
Brittany, 1760. Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is commissioned to paint the wedding portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), a young woman who has just left the convent. Because she is a reluctant bride-to-be, Marianne arrives under the guise of companionship, observing Héloïse by day and secretly painting her by firelight at night. As the two women orbit one another, intimacy and attraction grow as they share Héloïse’s first moments of freedom. Héloïse’s portrait soon becomes a collaborative act of and testament to their love.
In French with subtitles
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Showings of this film are part of our Cinematheque season which is supported by the British Film Institute.
“In an age when ambitious female directors seem determined to prove they can slash through action flicks with the Big Boys, Sciamma goes for something infinitely more ethereal: a soft, feminine passion seldom captured on screen. . . Sciamma is blessed with two lead actors whose haunted round eyes and exquisitely calibrated performances offer portraits of studied desperation, crushed beneath centuries of societal expectations.” Saturday Evening Post
“Portrait of a Lady on Fire effectively has a cast of just four women — Héloïse and her mother (Valeria Golino) living in this manoir with just one enchanting maid, Sophie (Luana Bajrami). . . Men have been banished, or just omitted. It could have been claustrophobic but the central story is so passionately involving you don’t want to look elsewhere at all.” Evening Standard