Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Portrait de la jeune fille en feu
Panorama | Special Presentations
Set against the backdrop of 18th-century Brittany, a forbidden love stirs between two young women, a painter and her reluctant subject. Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is commissioned to paint Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) the beautiful daughter of a noblewoman. Upon her arrival, Marianne discovers that the previous artist failed, and that Héloïse refuses to pose in protest of being showcased for an unwanted marriage. Ostensibly hired as a ladies’ companion, Marianne takes daily walks with Héloïse, observing her closely yet discreetly, without letting on she’s secretly working on a portrait when they’re apart. As she struggles to make progress on the painting, she finds herself growing more and more attracted to Héloïse.
Made in an elegantly classical style, director Céline Sciamma’s (Girlhood) romance turns into a remarkable work of suspense, as tension slowly builds over transient glances and pauses - rendered beautifully by Merlant and Haenel’s passionate performances. The deeper they fall in love, the closer Héloïse’s impending loss of freedom looms in this tragic drama about imposed social limitations on what we can create, how we can live, and who we can love.
"A painterly masterpiece… As perfect a film as any to have premiered this year." - David Ehrlich, IndieWire
Best Screenplay, Cannes 19