Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Portrait of a Lady on Fire ★★★★

There is very few weak points that stand out in this film. Sciamma has written a fantastic script that doesn’t rush anything and balances between creating a feeling of melancholia by reminding you of wastefulness and fleetingness but captivating you to each moment as you can’t take of your eyes from the beautiful sets and actors’ faces. The setting enhances the strictness of women’s world and impossibility of Marianne and Heloise’s love lasting longer but remains romanticised from modern viewpoint. It helps bring forth acute themes in subtle ways and implies deceitfulness with its gorgeous red and green outfits, candle lit rooms and waves crashing on the shores of the blue ocean.

The interactions between the leads hold something under the surface and feature meandering looks and few words spoken which demonstrates how good Sciamma’s direction is. Speaking of leads, Adele Haenel is a treasure. That final shot with the music and Haenel’s expressions is absolutely perfect. Since I need to check out more of her work it’s a blessing that she and Sciamma have collaborated in the past.

Despite the atmosphere and subtext that lies in every image it does fall to a few tropes and in the end abandons the delicacy for moving the plot to a direction we already knew it was headed. I didn’t understand how all of the characters related to the core romance which is why I remained a bit detached from it. Not quite at level of the LB rating for me but I think it deserves the praise it is getting and with these performances, screenplay, lighting and soundtrack there is virtually no technicalities I could fault it for.

Sciamma ranked
Great performances
2019

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