Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Portrait of a Lady on Fire ★★★★½

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is the perfect film for a film scholar like me. On the one hand, the images present an unmatched beauty; and on the other hand, the film's (sub)text spawns a multitude of analyses and interpretations.

I kept on thinking, does something like a female gaze exist? If so, how would we theorize it? And is this point of discussion even important in today's society where, as Portrait of a Lady on Fire shows, female subjects acquire the strength to gaze right back into the camera. This play of interaction, this dynamics, is at core in Sciamma's fourth feature film (earlier she directed Girlhood and Tomboy). Precisely in the 'gazing back' does the film come to life - the spectator and the ensemble are mixed into this exciting ambiance of reciprocal relationships.

This is not where it ends though. We can gaze as long as we want, but we will only grasp the surface of what we are looking at. Portrait of a Lady on Fire shows that even though women have been subjected to the male gaze for centuries, they have always lived in freedom in their secret, inner-worlds. Thoughts, memories and dreams are the most important currency in the world, because no-one can take them from you; therefore, it sometimes is the better choice to live inside of your memories than to except the hard truths of society.

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