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Movie Review: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

MoviePortrait of a lady on fire
GenreDrama, Romance
LanguagesFrench
TNS Score91
PlatformPrimeVideo
Run-Time2h 2m
CastAdèle Haene, Noémie Merlant, Luàna Bajrami
Release2019
DirectorCéline Sciamma

Plot

Marianne, a painter, is commissioned to do the wedding portrait of Heloise, a young woman who has just left the convent. Heloise is reluctant in getting married to someone her deceased sister was to get married to before she committed suicide. Marianne must paint her without her knowing. She observes her day by day to paint her secretly.

Writing

Set in the French society of 1770’s, we see the story of Heloise who is left with her dead sister’s destiny to marry a man she has never seen before. The narration of her story is through the faint memories of a painter, Marianne, who descends her father’s profession and is called for, to paint Heloise without her knowing so.

 It’s been written very well with all the intricacies in place. It breaks through the conventions of the society of that age and incorporates the element of homosexuality, building up a rather radical narrative in accordance with the time it talks about. More than the writing, it’s the direction and cinematography that builds the true aesthetic of the film.

Direction

The film has been directed brilliantly well, capturing the aesthetics through accurate cinematography. Since the film is an artistic endeavour more than a simple fit in the mainstream cinema, some of the shots have been wonderfully directed and played upon. The scenes that specifically place the characters of Marianne and Heloise on the same screen, when Marianna is to observe and remember the details of Heloise’s features and postures to be able to imitate them on her canvas later, are directed and shot beautifully well and in acute perfection.

 Furthermore, the scene lasting few seconds, when Heloise’s gown catches fire and Marianne’s observation of it on her canvas, is something you cannot help but watch in an awestruck emotion. Many other instances like these, are loaded with such striking emotions, that no wonder it makes for a film which has been critically acclaimed.

Performance

Two major characters of Marianne and Heloise, have been acted upon very well and thus represented in their true element. Adele Haenel plays the role of grief struck Heloise, who is yet to break free from the imprisonment of the past. Haenel has done a great job, playing this character as she embodies the hesitation, rebel and grief for the sake of this character and brings it out on screen.

Noemie Merlant characterises Marianne, brining out the characters unconventional and free spirit on the screen. Both the actors are successful in delivering an accurate amount of passion, personalising the experience of the audience. Other actors including, Luana Bajrami and Valeria Golino, have done a great work as well.

Conclusion

This film deserves its critical acclamation, it’s far away from the mainstream cinema and stereotypical endings, it’s truly a work of creativity and aesthetics. You cannot miss watching the film for its wonderful cinematography, milieu and screenplay. Had it not been for the perfection of its direction and writing, that compliment each other in an accurate proportion, we wouldn’t have recommended you to watch this film, right now! You simply can’t miss this one.

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