Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Five years after her international triumph Girlhood, writer-director Céline Sciamma returns with a poignant feminist revision of the historical romance. In the late eighteenth-century, Marianne, a free-spirited painter, travels to a remote island off the coast of Brittany to paint a portrait of Héloïse, a young woman whose mother has recently taken her out of a convent to marry her to an Italian nobleman whom
she has never met. But Héloïse refuses to sit for a portrait she knows will be offered to her prospective husband. Marianne must paint her in secret, pretending merely to keep Héloïse company while trying to
memorize her features as they walk on the beach. Sciamma’s masterful command of her art has rarely been more delightful to behold than in the way she teases out the shift from the artist’s dispassionate gaze to the yearning admirer’s look of desire. As the two young women experience a brief burst of love and freedom, a kind of utopia that will remain with them for the rest of their lives, Sciamma challenges the viewer to guess who is looking at who, raising complicated questions not only about desire but the history of artists and their models.
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