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Moral of the Movie - Review

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

Drama/Period, Directed by Céline Sciamma | Rating: Marriage Material | Published: Sept. 2, 2022, 11:59 a.m.


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When we see people for who they truly are as opposed to the people that society expects them to be, we see the true beauty of that person. This is especially true for women who are limited or repressed by societal/cultural expectations and gender roles.


This movie is made for those who see the art and beauty in the simple yet elegant parts of life. If you enjoy nature, museums, romance, and deep talks, then this is the perfect movie for you.


Continuing the theme of International Women’s Day, I thought that it was necessary to also highlight female-directed films. Céline Sciamma is truly a phenomenal director and her skills are put on full display with this film. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) is set on the concept of looking with desire. This is a play on the male gaze (tendency in film to depict women in a sexualized and objectified manner) that is so standard in film. While most films feature the male gaze, Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) features the female gaze. This film alludes to and subverts Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), which demonstrates how the male gaze serves to fit a woman into the expectations and desires that men have for women. In contrast, Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) represents the female gaze that is meant to portray women as they are and nothing more or less. There is quite literally a female gaze given the fact that the film is directed by a woman (Céline Sciamma) and the cinematography was also done by a woman (Claire Mathon). The purpose of the female gaze is almost documentary-like in that it humanizes women by portraying their realities rather than the male fantasies of women that dehumanizes them in other films. There are many societal expectations that come along with womanhood, especially in the 18th century France setting of Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019). As such, there is a lot of social commentary concerning gender roles and feminism in issues such as repression, abortion, marriage, etc. In the final painting, artistic rules and conventions were broken in order to portray Héloïse in a more realistic light. So, there’s a clear message here that certain rules and conventions should be broken or abolished in order to let women be their true selves. Overall, the film highlights women’s issues from three centuries ago that still prevail today while telling an endearing love story full of feminine beauty in the realest sense.

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