Portrait Of A Lady On Fire is an amazing kind of marriage where one half is exquisite artistry and the other half’s a romance slowly bursting into a bonfire. Written and directed by Céline Sciamma, it unveils a story about an artist Marianne (Noémie Merlant) who is hired to secretly to do a portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) that would be a gift for her assigned future husband. The film looks gorgeous in both candlelight and sunlight, never letting its flames to be smothered.
Both Merlant and Haenel are terrific in their roles, not letting a smile slip in front of the other one for quite a while. Their movement is almost dance-like where the one taking the lead is changing from scene to scene and they never overact their feelings or underplay the meaningfulness. Their individual highlights are connected by Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’, Merlant in earlier scene where she plays it on harpsichord and Haenel in the very last scene of the movie. The main duo is supported well by Luàna Bajrami who plays a maid called Sophie. Her storyline could’ve easily been the film’s misstep but it’s wonderfully implemented in the main storyline while the acting is up to par as well. These storylines living harmoniously is thanks to Sciamma’s screenplay which is rich, smart and caring. There’s no rapid fire exchanges at any point but the words on the page are all there for a reason and never underestimate the talent that is acting them out.
Claire Mathon’s cinematography bleeds colors and glow, especially in all the beach scenes. Every shot that is outdoors could be perfect for a painting and shots indoors never let the characters out of viewer’s gaze. The close-up shot at the beach where Marianne’s face is closer to camera and Héloïse’s is behind hers is one of the best of the year (also featured in the trailer). Sciamma’s directorial vision is apparent everywhere, all the movements and framings of the camera are very classy and seem carefully chosen. Also by the way, the paintings featured in the film are done by Hélène Delmaire so great job by her capturing the character of Héloïse so beautifully.
Smileys: Screenplay, acting, cinematography, directing, dialogue
You’re probably expecting some fire emojis here but I’ll keep it classy too.