Imagine yourself in a tiny boat amidst the tumultuous waves, crossing the sea to reach a secluded island in Brittany, not long before the French Revolution. Your noble mission is to paint a portrait of an unknown lady as a gift that will ensure her marriage to a Milanese suitor. There is only one obstacle: after you cross the threshold of a magnificent château, her Mother reveals that your predecessors have failed to finish the painting – the bride-to-be deplores the idea of marriage and refuses to pose. So, you are to become the lady’s faithful companion: observing by day on the sunlit shore, working by night in the dim candlelight. Her image – mysterious and obscure – keeps you entranced, as you try to capture the tender curves of her lips, the softness of her golden hair, the emerald depth of her eyes. Every moment becomes filled with your subject’s presence – this young girl is vibrant and unyielding, aflame with an ardent passion to run and break free from the stifling conventions. With every gentle brushstroke, you fall deeper and deeper… Is it merely affection, a slight infatuation, a tinge of midsummer madness, or something profound and long-lasting? No time for contemplation – the portrait is finished, and you must return.
If a wistful melancholy has already pierced your heart, the story of Marianne (Noémie Merlant) and Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) masterfully created by Céline Sciamma with an exquisite artistic touch added by Hélène Delmaire‘s paintings and Claire Mathon’s cinematography is going to set it on fire. “Portrait de la jeune fille en feu” is a work of art, so this review explores its subtle allusions (intended or fortuitous) to famous paintings, granting the viewers a complete immersion into the dreamlike world of the doomed lovers.
*Please, proceed with caution – this review is permeated with spoilers!