Grackles review Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Directed by Céline Sciamma
Reviewed by Kat Moore and Tiffany Isaacs
Portrait of a Lady on Fire is the fourth feature film written and directed by French filmmaker, Céline Sciamma. Sciamma first burst on the French filmmaking scene with Water Lilies, a film she wrote while a student at La Femis, the famed French film school. Water Lilies was the first in what would be a trilogy of coming-of-age films. In all of the films Sciamma prioritizes the female gaze, training it on characters that have not been traditionally the focus of mainstream film. Waterlilies follows the budding sexuality of a young girl in a Paris suburb amidst the background of an amateur synchronized swimming team. Her second film, Tomboy, follows a young girl who presents herself as a boy after her family moves to a new neighborhood. Girlhood follows the awakening, sexually and otherwise, of a young black teenaged girl in a rough neighborhood just on the edge of Paris. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is her first film not set contemporaneously, but it picks up thematically where her oeuvre left off.
A young painter, Marianne (Noémie Merlant), is hired as a replacement painter to paint a portrait of a young aristocrat woman, Héloïse (Adèle Haenel). The portrait has been commissioned by Héloïse’s mother, and upon completion, Héloïse will marry a Mi