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Portrait of a lady on fire

(Portrait de la jeune fille en feu)

Reviewed by:

Krishna Chaitanya M



Celine Sciamma

Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami

Release Year








Run time (mins)




Streaming On

Amazon Prime (India)

Updated on:


The Movie is about a painter Marianne (Noémie Merlant) and her muse Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) and their private love story. The integral part of the story also includes the work of art, literature and music, without which the movie will be like sea without water. It is female centric movie, where you hardly see any male characters - because the story didn’t need any.

Marianne is employed by a countess to paint her daughter Heloise's portrait without her knowing it. Heloise is stubborn not to pose, as the portrait will be sent to her soon-to-be husband - the marriage she is not interested in. How Marianne manages this and how eventually a relationship establishes between them, among other details, forms the rest of the story.

It is not the story that impressed me though, It is the way how it is told and showed. And also how there are different layers for each of the character. The way Heloise was introduced - craving for freedom. They way Marianne fights patriarchy - by submitting painting to competitions in the name of her father. The way the episode of unwanted pregnancy of Sophie (maid) is told - which reflects the solidarity of the characters. And the way the entire theme of the movie reflects, when Marianne interprets the Greek myth ‘Orpheus An Eurydice’, which Heloise is reading for Marianne and Sophie - “He chooses the memory of her. That’s why he turns. He doesn’t make the lover’s choice, but the poet’s.” I can go on.

The cinematography in this movie is at par with the vision of the director. I’ll mention 4 particular scenes which are etched in my memory of this movie.

1. The only two scenes of nudity in this film are artistically portraied. The first has Marianne drying herself, seated in front of a fireplace while smoking a pipe.
2. The second one, when Heloise stretches on a bed, with a small mirror blocking her pubis and Marianne sketching a self-portrait by gazing her reflection on the mirror.
3. When Sophie is undergoing an abortion in a one room hut and gasping in pain on bed, a small child gently grabs her finger, as if to remind her what she is losing.
4. In climax, when camera stays fixed on Heloise’s face during a performance of Vivaldi’s "Four Seasons” - which reminds her of Marianne, when she played a bit of the same on piano.

The director, Sciamma, had made a tragic love story, which leaves you anchored, rather than destroyed. I feel like, I have watched a good painting by a good poet. This movie was a treat for an artist in me rather than to the couch potato.

My Overall Ratings (of 5):










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