A Brief Film Review: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

If you can actually believe it I only just watched Portrait of a Lady on Fire written and directed by Céline Sciamma. I have to admit the fast-paced, short-attention span needing culture of tik-tok has made it harder to watch movies. Although I was hesitant, scared of being interested but slightly bored, I was absolutely and comprehensively proven wrong. 

My favorite kind of storytelling is that which has few to a single character(s), and a limited setting. Catcher in the Rye, is an excellent example of this. I love the power that puts on the integrity of the narrative and the story that the character is going through. For me, it creates a moment where no frills can distract from the goodness and incorruptibility of the mere story itself. In the past I might not have included love stories into this pure category, this film has proven me wrong. 

The act of telling a bigger story in a visual one that is digestible and viewable to film observers (or just those who love any sort of story), is extremely challenging. The beautiful setting, compelling and dreamy soundtrack, and simple yet still-intricate costumes are shamefully good. The camera shots themselves tell a tale and a story separate of the dialogue, characters, and plotline. Every move, every word spoken, every action is so purposeful that it seems like the most ideal story one could ever witness. Like Marianne’s painting of Hélouise’s smile, something seemingly so simple can hold so much weight in the bigger story.

This film does not have a clear sex scene yet it is extraordinarily sensual. This film finally has a lesbian story that isn’t soley about being gay or coming out. This film is haunting.

I shouldn’t be surprised that I love this film so much, it is technically right up my alley. Yet I am still so satisfied with how well this film was executed. A story that so easily could have become mundane or sleazy remains at an extraordinarily high standard of film. A definite win for the girls. 

Published by ellakotsen

student at Bryn Mawr College

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