Portrait of a Lady on Fire ★★★★½


Director Celine Scemmia takes us to the late 18th century France where a painter Marianne played by Noemie Merlant is hired to come up with a portrait of soon to be married Heloise played by Adele Haenel but she has to do so in secret. Things take an unexpected turn as they start developing feelings for each other.

Marianne and Heloise are two completely different characters that have very few things in common but the one thing they desire is being free. They want to have control over their own life. Marianne is already living a life based on her choices and trying to make it in a 'man's world'. It is this quality of hers that attracts Heloise as she cant help but admire the choices she has made in her life. Heloise has grown up in a convent away from the society and is devoid of any joys and sorrows of real world. Heloise sees Marianne as a bridge to the outer world. She wants to wants to know the feeling of being loved or listening to some great music. Marianne on the other hand gets mesmerized by Heloise's determination and youthful exuberance. The natural attraction between them are beautifully captured by exchanging looks, their little conversations and their mutual concern of well being of their helper Sophie played by Launa Bajrami. Marianne who is at first secretly trying to paint Heloise soon understands that the portrait will not be 'real' as it will be bereft of any genuine feelings and it will be just her feeble perception of Heloise at the end of the day.

Claire Mathon (Cinematographer) and Celine create this beautiful little world with a palace and a sea shore and bring life to this gothic romance seamlessly. Some of the shots at the shore are just breathtaking and you will feel like you are looking at some exquisite piece of art. The scenes with the three women being alone in the palace and enjoying whatever they want to do is really heartwarming. Celine brings us a story of these extraordinary women of formative time who are not bound by shackles of society. This is truly a remarkable achievement in film making.

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