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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'Portrait of a Lady on Fire': An Exquisite Tale of Passion and Accord in 18th-Century France

Movie poster for the French film Portrait of a Lady on Fire starring Adèle Haenel and Noémie Merlant

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Portrait de la Jeune Fille en Feu) (2019) is a resounding love story set in 18th-century France on an island off the coast of Brittany. A young painter named Marianne (Noémie Merlant) travels to the secluded sanctuary at the behest of an aristocratic countess (Valeria Golino) to paint a portrait of her young daughter Héloïse (Adèle Haenel).

Héloïse has been promised in marriage to an unacquainted Milanese nobleman, and with her portrait intended as a gift in matrimony, she has abjectly refused to sit for previous artists in steadfast objection to the arrangement. Warned that Héloïse will maintain her defiance, Marianne engages her as a companion for daily walks in order to memorize her every feature for subsequent transfer to the canvas—their proximity and candor slowly drawing the two of them into a flourishing, passionate love affair.

Written and directed by French filmmaker Céline Sciamma (Girlhood), Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a wonderfully majestic creation, etching out a fervent tale of affection and accord with supreme grace. Shot it glorious 8K resolution by cinematographer Claire Mathon, it’s an impeccable and entirely exquisite adult drama for the ages.


View the trailer:


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