I don’t want to tell you about Portrait of a Lady on Fire. I don’t want to discuss its moments of
beauty. I don’t want to expose what feels like a secret, the love that exists
between two people. I don’t want to impede on their union and I certainly don’t
want to disturb the affection they have for one another.
What I do want to tell you about is how I ache for a world
where filmmakers are inspired by the work of Céline Sciamma. I yearn for a future
of cinema that takes the beats and themes of Portrait of a Lady on Fire and applies them to all works of art
going forward. I desire a world where this story becomes a monumental shift in the
way art is created.
I refuse to tell what the plot of this film is, because I
want you to discover the love within this film for yourself. I want you to
enter the cinema with your heart open, and I want you to leave the theatre
feeling ok with having had it torn in two, coming to the realisation that you
never needed your heart anyhow. I want you to immerse yourself in the story of
two people falling in love.
I also want you to see how similar our current society is to
18th century France. I want you to be surprised about how femininity
has been stifled throughout history. I want you to find comfort in the caring,
empathetic, powerfully feminist way that cinematographer Claire Mathon captures
I want you to appreciate the silence, the ambient noise, the
out of tune piano, the roaring of a fireplace, the gentle diegetic sounds of
the world. I’m eager for you to walk away from this film with a desire to sit
in silence and just listen to the
I also want you to feel the distance between you and the
person you love when you’re not sure if they feel the same way. I want you to
recognise the divide that exists in the moments before a stolen kiss. I hope
you can understand the tension, the desire, the aching, the yearning, in that
I hope you look at your loved ones and store their face in
every corner of your mind so you can cherish that memory in the depths of the
dark of night. I feel that after this film, you’ll recall what makes them
smile, how they look when they’re frustrated, what they do with their hands when
they’re sitting, thinking, living. And if your loved one is no longer in your
life, then I hope that you find comfort in the memories that incidental things that
you encounter in your day may unexpectedly conjure.
I want you to recognise how pointedly masculine history has been catalogued, with the way that the women
of the world have been portrayed through a masculine gaze for too long. I want
you to absorb the impact of watching two women recreate a tableau of an abortion
so a third woman can paint the event as it occurred. I want you to be reminded
of how women have long been considered transitionary items, passed as a good
from one family to the next as a dowry, or worse, as a way of furthering a
I feel that Portrait of
a Lady on Fire encourages you to consider the weight of a minute. To
recognise that when one passes, it is another minute less spent with those we
love and care about. I want you to consider how this film makes you consider
how to make each minute, each moment, count. To make each interaction feel
I don’t want to tell you about Portrait of a Lady on Fire because I want you to experience this truly
beautiful, heartbreaking, love-affirming film. I want you to witness its
empathy and care, and I want you to be swept away by Noémie Merlant and Adèle
Haenel. I want you to love this film as much as I do, and I hope you understand
at its conclusion why it feels like a precious secret, one that you want to
keep to yourself out of respect for the characters, and for all the other
people who have fallen in love.
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