Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Portrait of a Lady on Fire ★★★★★

Celine Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a ghost story. Not of the classic variety, where the ghost is haunting and out for vengeance: rather, it’s the ghosts among us, the fading threads of memory that last long after the moment is over. It’s about the passage of time, the desire to hang onto these moments, and live within them for as long as possible. It’s a story of two lovers connecting, and while the time is brief, the impact stays. And most importantly, it is entirely female, a lesbian love story with lesbians both in front of, and behind the camera, a rare authenticity in a world of male gaze.

The film is a twist on the classic tale of artist and muse. A painter named Marianne (Noémie Merlant) must paint a portrait of a rebellious young woman named Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), who is arranged to be wed after her older sister lept off a cliff. Héloïse has only recently left a convent, and is closely guarded with everyone around her. Her distrust in the world has already driven away one painter, so Marianne must pose undercover as a walking companion. The gazes between the two women may begin as different thing, one out of curiosity and one out of duty, but their admiration slowly burns into mutual pining...


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