Portrait Of A Lady On Fire Review: Subversive and Profound, Subtle and Artistic 

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire (2019/  Romance / Period Drama/ Prime Video)

An exquisite and artistic story about female perspective depicting love and bonding amidst craving for freedom.

Writer/ Director – Celine Sciamma

Cast – Adele Haenel , Noemie Merlant, Sophie, Valeria Golino


In eighteenth century France, Marianne, a painter is commissioned to paint the portrait of a lady, Heloise who refuses to pose and is unwilling and angry about her impending marriage and lack of freedom in life.

The story takes us on their journey where bonding and love entangled with patriarchy and craving for freedom leaves a lasting impression.


The period drama fan in me stumbled upon this gem & was blown away by the exquisite artistic way of story telling and the impassioned theme of female perspective referred to as “female gaze” in cinema.      

Sciamma, whom I would rather call firebrand feminist, known for her work in French cinema, creates a world that leaves you wowed.

When I say subtle and subversive, they may look like oxymorons but seem to be the best way to describe the film.

Right from the first frame, artistic strokes rule literally and thematically, not only in terms of what we see but also what we hear, what they mean to convey and what leaves us thinking.

The storytelling is absolutely classy that includes all aspects right from screenplay, costumes, cinematography, dialogues and performances.

Adele and Noemie’s performances have a superb natural flair to them and add sheen. 

There’s so much to absorb and admire if you can ride the tide that the filmmaker plans to take you on. The camaraderie of the women beyond class, the sheer absence of men altogether from the film despite their heavy dominating presence in the women’s life, the absence of music except for one particular scene that stood out, the old greek legend and its interpretation, everything is woven in  such a beautiful way that even the so called bold scenes do not unnecessarily try to make a statement. 

I haven’t ever seen a more solid message conveyed with such fluidity. 

The film has an IMDB rating of 8.1 and has deservedly won many awards and nominations.

Recommended for those who have a palate for slow, arty and outstanding world cinema.

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