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