Portrait of a Lady on Fire
InfoIt’s the end of the eighteenth century and Marianne, a young painter, is commissioned to paint a wedding portrait of Héloïse living on an island off the Brittany coast. Héloïse recently left the convent in order to marry a nobleman. Héloïse refuses to pose for her portrait and is reluctant to marry. Heloise’s mother suggests that Marianne pretend to be Heloise’s companion and friend. Marianne is then forced to observe Héloïse on long, daily walks, memorizing her features. At night Marianne secretly works on the portrait. Marianne finishes the portrait but is racked with guilt that she betrayed Heloise’s trust and reveals her real reason for arriving. When Heloise’s mother leaves for an extended trip to Italy, Marianne and Heloise become lovers. This intimate relationship ends when Héloïse’s mother returns. Marianne now must leave the island and return home. As she walks away from the house, Marianne looks back and sees Héloïse in her wedding dress.
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 98%
- Metacritic Score: 95
Cannes Film Festival: Winner, Queer Palm; Best Screenplay
New York Film Critics Online: Best Foreign Language Film
Los Angeles Film Critics Association: Best Cinematography (Claire Mathon)
Women Film Critics Circle: Best Movie About Women
Cesar Awards: Best Cinematography (Claire Mathon)
London Film Critics Circle: Best Foreign Language Film
National Board of Review: Listed, Top Five Foreign Language Films, 2019
Dorian Awards: LGBTQ Film of the Year
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The film is about the erotic, electric connection between women when they find their desire for creative experience fulfilled in each other, but it is equally about the powers of art to validate, preserve, and console after the romance is over. Director Sciamma has created a tragic love story as enthralling as any in modern cinema.
With PORTRAIT of a LADY on FIRE, director Sciamma takes cinematic magnetism to new heights and periods. But, above all, the film is its own, wondrous, magnificent thing; a complete artistic vision where every directorial step is refined and each thematic probe seamlessly weaved in.
There’s a minimalism to the film—a few words, the spare design of the sets and costumes, the isolation of the characters—that makes every detail resonate. PORTRAIT of a LADY on FIRE is a bittersweet celebration of passion and art. You’ve never seen another movie quite like this. In its quiet gaze, love becomes art—and vice versa.
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