Originally named Portrait de la jeune fille en feu, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a 2019 French film directed by Céline Sciamma.
Set in the late 18th century in France, the film follows the historical romantic drama genre and the two main characters: Marianne and Héloïse are played by Noémie merlant and Adéle haenel respectively.
The film opens up in the present with Marianne giving an art lesson.
The viewer is transported into the romance via flashback when Marianne reveals her experience living on an island in Brittany after a student asks her about a specific painting she had done called: Portrait de la jeune fille en feu.
The flashback transports the viewer to Brittany where a countess, Héloïse’s mother, commissions Marianne to paint a portrait of her daughter. Héloïse had previously rejected various portraits as having a portrait meant getting married.
Throughout the film, Marianne and Héloïse’s friendship and desire for one another leads them to start having a romantic relationship and while the Countess leaves for Milan, they are each other’s companions. After completing the painting and the return of the Countess, Marianne leaves Héloïse, knowing that she will be married to another man.
The film returns to the present and the viewer is told that after their last encounter in Brittany, they see each other coincidentally on two other occasions and the cinematic shots proves that their love for one another is eternal.
Within the LGBTQ+ community, the film received an extremely positive response for its ability to showcase the nature of queer desire without being tainted with the male gaze. The director chose a mainly female team which allowed the film to showcase a realistic perception of a female LGBTQ+ relationship through the female gaze.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire received wide acclaim, with an IMDB star rating of 8.1/10 and a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 9/10 and was even 2019’s second best reviewed film on Metacritic.
The film garnered a box office revenue of $10 million and was nominated for numerous awards and was also chosen to compete for the Palme d’Or. Director Céline Sciamma became the first woman to win the Queer Palm at Cannes, besides winning the award for Best Screenplay.
On a scale from zero to five, I think this film deserves a four-star rating. Although slow-paced at times, it is exceptional at portraying the growing desire between the two lovers and how a brief love can be extremely impactful and influential for the rest of someone’s life.
Even though it is a French spoken film, do not let the language barrier stop you from enjoying a skilful, realistic and artistic LGBTQ+ film!
Final Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ of 5
What to watch if you liked Portrait Of A Lady On Fire
- The Girl King (2015)
- Freeheld (2015)
- Duck Butter (2018)
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