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BFI Flare Special Presentation in association with Sight & Sound

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Portrait de la jeune fille en feu

A female portrait painter falls in love with her subject in Girlhood director Céline Sciamma’s perfect new film.

A number of access tickets have been ring-fenced for the BSL screening on Tuesday 8 October.

Dir-Scr Céline Sciamma
Prod Véronique Cayla, Bénédicte Couvreur
With Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Valeria Golino, Luàna Bajrami
UK Distribution Curzon
With English subtitles

In 1760, Lady Héloïse’s (Adèle Haenel) mother hires a female painter to create a portrait of her daughter for a distant suitor. But the painter, Marianne (Noémie Merlant), must do so in secret because Héloïse is fiercely opposed to being married off; she thinks instead that Marianne has been hired as a walking companion. Looking – especially so intently in order to memorise details – becomes an act of profound intimacy and seduction, and when Héloïse’s mother leaves for business in town, the smouldering between the women ignites. While this is devastatingly effective as a love story against impossible social and cultural barriers, to read the film as only that is to dismiss so many nuances and layers. Céline Sciamma has crafted a film about the unique, secret codes of female-only spaces; about an historical economy which rendered women’s artistic contributions invisible, but not non-existent; and about women’s limited control of their own bodies. This is a gloriously restrained and precise film that pushes for new ways of employing sound and music, one that redefines the construction of the gaze – of the protagonist, the camera, and the viewer – on the female form. With every new work, from Water Lilies and Tomboy to Girlhood, Sciamma has developed as a filmmaker of greater power and poignancy. Portrait of a Lady on Fire seals her position amongst the best of her generation. It’s Céline Sciamma on fire.

Tricia Tuttle

Festival guests

These members of the filmmaking team are expected to attend the festival:

  • Céline Sciamma, director; Adèle Haenel, cast; Noémie Merlant, cast.

See the full list of visiting festival guests. Please note that we can't guarantee guest attendance at any particular screening.

Filmmaker attendance made possible thanks to Unifrance.

Additional information

The screening on Tuesday 8 October is an accessible BSL screening for customers who are D/deaf or hard or hearing. The introduction and Q&A will be BSL interpreted.

See our Screen Talk: Céline Sciamma.

Sight & Sound

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