Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Portrait of a Lady on Fire ★★★★½

As its title may suggest, Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) has a very fascinating relationship to art and painting in particular. Literally about a painting, the deliberate pacing conveys the slow creation where minuscule details and slow, sweeping strokes eventually build something grand. In the same way, Céline Sciamma builds her film by slow but precisely chiseling out the film, growing just as slow as the painting to finally reveal itself in full power.

It’s a gobsmacking, astonishing movie precisely because Sciamma takes such time, allowing the characters to live and blossom in the scarce but stunning sets. Their quiet words fill the silence and none of its moves seems too rushed, but instead just natural. And in the same way as seeing the process of the painting is great but nothing compared to the end result, there’s no hiding from the emotional punch the film pulls when everything has been so slowly revealing itself. Sublime.

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