Portrait of a Lady on Fire [Feature]

France (MIFF 2019 )
Director: Céline Sciamma

Girlhood director Céline Sciamma returns with this beautifully calibrated, incandescent romance between a painter and her subject, which took home both Best Screenplay and the Queer Palm at this year’s Cannes.

Marianne (Noémie Merlant), a young painter in 18th-century France, has been commissioned to do the wedding portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), a reluctant soon-to-be bride who refuses to sit for her portrait – and must be studied in secret. Intimacy and attraction swiftly develop between the two women, even as circumstance conspires to drive them apart.

Working from a deceptively simple narrative, writer/director Céline Sciamma (Girlhood, MIFF 2019; Tomboy, MIFF 2011) tightens the emotional screws with devastating precision, while Merlant and Haenel (who appeared in the director’s debut Water Lillies) explore their characters’ emotionally overwhelming relationship with heartbreaking clarity.

“A movie that’s as intricately layered, coded and gilded with symbolism as an Old Master and made by a filmmaker who is herself, as we say in English nowadays, on fire.” – The Hollywood Reporter

Select Festival

Search the film archive