Portrait of a woman on fire (2019): horizontal relationships in a hostile world

demand for horizontal relations

We are not facing a “period” movie. What is shown to us is valid for this threatened and confined world. And it does so through a beautiful work of art.

Celine Sciamma’s trilogy

Celine Sciamma, French director and screenwriter, made a trilogy in which she studied sexual identity, its search and its construction in adolescence, the journey to maturity and life in the suburbs. This trilogy is made up of the films Water Lilies (2007), Tomboy (2011) and Girlhood (2014), for which the director received honors and recognition.

Portrait of a burning woman

In her fourth and last film en streaming to date, Portrait of a woman on fire ( Portrait de la jeune fille en feu, 2019), the French director pays tribute to the French painters of the s. XVIII, unjustly forgotten.

He tells us how an excellent painter is commissioned to make a portrait of a young woman who lives in eighteenth-century Brittany. But it must do it without the portrayed being aware that she is being painted. The realization of the painting, the relationship between painter and young marriage, as well as the surrounding world, people and nature, are influencing the two protagonists. Protagonists in every way, since they monopolize practically all the footage.

Love and its limits

The look takes on the importance it should have in real life. Gazes into a world of Russian dolls. One of the actresses, Adele Haendel, was a partner of the director. And throughout the story, the camera looks at the portrait artist who looks at Adele, who looks in turn. What is being created here is not an artist-muse type work of art, but an equitable, equal relationship between the characters involved.

This beautiful work, with great visual impact, is the construction of a love between the two young women, where the colors speak to us, the clothes, the hair, everything has its function, its message. The coasts, the sea, the flowers, the wind. Everything alive.

And everything listens, everyone listens. Perhaps all but the gentleman in Milan who waits for the portrait to marry.

We are facing a demand for horizontal relations. Respect, active listening replace seduction. There is a lot of sensuality. Love is made over a period of time, in which the two women show themselves, with enormous sensitivity, and a strong and deep relationship is built.

We are facing a demand for horizontal relations. Respect, active listening replace seduction.

The “stolen pose” at the beginning ends in a union that surpasses any limitation and that will never be broken, despite the fact that society imposes its rules and takes Adele to Milan. But nothing and no one can deprive you of a love above the customs, the routine or the economy.

In short, Cecile Sciamma tells us, in the 21st century, that sustainable relationships can be built in a hostile world. We are not facing a “period” movie. What is shown to us is valid for this threatened and confined world. And it does so through a beautiful work of art.

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