Portrait of a Lady on Fire

"[Director] Sciamma brings the erotic together with the cerebral... with burning desires and flashes of Hitchcock" ★★★★★ Guardian

Showing Times

Fri 06 Mar 18:20
Sat 07 Mar 18:00
Sun 08 Mar 20:00
Mon 09 Mar 11:00
Mon 09 Mar 20:50

Héloïse's (Adèle Haenel) cloistered world falls apart when she's sent home from the convent to be married.  Although powerless to change her fate Héloïse refuses to sit for her betrothal portrait, so her mother engages a female painter who is presented as her 'companion'. Just as Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is no ordinary companion, this is no ordinary painter/subject relationship.  From the start, intense gazes and significant silences are charged with meaning and dawning intent and it is, finally, exquisite relief when the relationship blossoms.  Marianne paints the portrait afresh, this time with Héloïse's cooperation and as a testament to their passionate relationship.

This delicate period piece is a radical departure for writer/director Céline Sciamma (Girlhood, Tomboy), but she hasn't abandoned her social realist cred.  She chose this transgressive story to document women's lives in the 18th century; the Breton household is matriarchal and the 'gaze' is female, although the patriarchal presence lowers just off-camera.  Dialogue is sparse but the film is eloquent - and erotic - as it explores its themes, supported by wonderfully painterly camerawork from Claire Mathon.  With flashes of Hitchcock - Vertigo and Rebecca - and traces, perhaps, of Jane Campion's The Piano, we defy you not to be entranced and excited by this film.


Film Information

122 mins

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