96 – Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Welcome to The Best Movies I’ve Never Seen! This is the part of the blog where I work my way through 100 films I’ve never seen that are generally considered to be great. You’re invited to watch along with me if you can find a copy or find it streaming. So grab some popcorn and let’s get started!

Portrait of a Lady on Fire


Directed by Céline Sciamma

Quick synopsis… Marianne is hired to paint the wedding portrait of Heloise. As the women orbit each other, intimacy and attraction grow as they share Heloise’s first moments of freedom.

  • This one must have really shot up the charts to have made this list after being released just last year.
  • Then again, Parasite is on the list somewhere down the line and it’s barely a year old as well.
  • This time, the film is in French.
  • Just going all over the world on this list.
  • Which is a good thing.
  • I’m definitely expanding my cinematic horizons.
  • They can’t all be super-hero movies, can they?
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire also takes place toward the end of the 18th century and is told in flashback.
  • Not a flashback from someone in 2019…
  • Marianne is giving an art lesson when a student asks about the painting that is the title of the film.
  • From there, we’re taken back to that time when Marianne was hired to paint the portrait.
  • She arrives on an island where she soon finds out she’s not the first painter hired for the job.
  • While exploring the manor a bit, she finds the previous painter’s canvas, which showed a nearly completed portrait… except for the face.
  • Turns out, this girl, Heloise, refused to be painted because she refuses to marry her fiancé.
  • Heloise has been told that Marianne is something of a companion, there to keep her company.
  • Marianne is told to spend time with her, go on walks… things like that.
  • From that, she is to memorize Heloise’s facial features so she can complete a proper portrait.
  • As it also turns out, Heloise is also not the first woman meant to marry the man she is meant to marry.
  • Her sister was engaged to him, but threw herself off a cliff to break the engagement.
  • I can see how she’d have a hard time wanting to marry this guy.
  • Who, by the way, we have yet to see on screen.
  • It’s kind of a fascinating thing to watch as Marianne tries to paint this woman without being able to look at her.
  • Heloise was forced to leave her life in a convent when her sister committed suicide, taking her sister’s place, betrothed to a man from Milan.
  • She is clearly miserable in this new life.
  • Marianne completes the portrait but feels guilty for lying to Heloise about her reason for being there.
  • She reveals the truth and Heloise criticizes to portrait, which doesn’t show her true nature.
  • Surprisingly, Heloise agrees to sit for the portrait.
  • Then a funny thing happens on the way to Milan…
  • Okay, not really on the way to Milan.
  • In the process of completing the actual portrait, the two women fall in love.
  • But, being the 18th century and with Heloise destined to wed a man she’s yet to meet, some things are not meant to be.
  • Having now seen Portrait of a Lady on Fire, it currently ranks at 1,583 out of 2,241 movies on my personal Flickchart list.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire falls into the same sort of category for me as Pride & Prejudice and other similarly timed period pieces. It’s not that I think movies that take place in this time period are bad. I just get bored with them… Not a time period I would want to travel to if given the opportunity. I guess, more specifically, not this time period in Western Europe.

Have you seen this movie? If so, what did you think of it? Let me know down in the comments! Then come back next week for Before Sunset, which, I’m told, is the second part of a trilogy of films. I’m also told I’m not allowed to watch that until I see the first in the series, Before Sunrise. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens.


One thought on “96 – Portrait of a Lady on Fire

  1. Pingback: What Are the Best Movies I’ve Never Seen? | The Confusing Middle

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