VIFF 2019 | 'Portrait Of A Lady On Fire' Movie Review

VIFF 2019 | 'Portrait Of A Lady On Fire' Movie Review

12/12 ForReel Score | 5/5 Stars

12/12 ForReel Score | 5/5 Stars

At Tribeca Film Festival, Portrait of a Lady on Fire won for Best Screenplay. The award and the abundant buzz for this 18th-century tale is well deserved as writer/director Céline Sciamma portrays this haunting, heart-wrenching, “fiery” romance.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire follows a young and talented painter, Marianne (Noémie Merlant), who is tasked with painting a portrait of a reserved and grieving soon-to-be bride, Héloïse (Adèle Haenel). As the two women spend more time together, they develop a closeness and eventually a physical relationship in the days leading up to the deadline of the completion of the portrait, and thus, the end of their time together.

It’s a tender story told in a profound way with every component of the film executed perfectly. It is mesmerizing to watch Merlant and Haenel dance around the impeccably composed tension between their characters. Cinematography is astounding, with big shots and elegant framing of its subject or focus. The sound mixing is also remarkable, with crashing waves, cracking fireplaces, and paintbrushes against a canvas carrying impressive prominence.

Even the limited use of a score is brilliant, allowing for the strong dialogue, performances, and themes to organically cultivate the film’s emotional value. There are eerie moments and bold sequences. But Portrait ends on a note that is affecting and breathtaking, allowing time for everyone…both on screen and in the theater…to reflect on the beauty of this experience.

Acting and Casting - 2 | Visual Effects and Editing - 2 | Story and Message - 2 | Entertainment Value - 2 | Music Score and Soundtrack - 2 | Reviewer's Preference - 2 | What does this mean?

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