The Gaze of a Woman: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

In Uncategorized on March 13, 2020 at 00:16

from folkebio.se portrait-of-a-lady-on-fire-7-clilies-films-1024x540Image from http://www.folketsbio.se

The film Portrait of a Lady on Fire harkens back to a time when marriages for women of means in Europe were arranged to better the economic and social status of their families. Women (but not poor women) were pawned off to wealthy men so the women’s families would be better off. Young women had no say in who they married in a vast majority of the cases, unless you joined the nunnery. Even queens were subject to marriage pressures, and only the strongest stood against it.

Some might label this film a romance, and it is a lovely one at that, but there is more at play here. The major theme is the oppression of women due to circumstances beyond their control. There are also questions of what it means to be authentic, and what is the true purpose of art. In the film, art is subverted to oppress the female subject of a portrait.

The two leads are as talented at acting as they are stunning to look at. The characters could have easily been maudlin, over wrought, or stilted. Thanks to the writing and acting, they were authentic from the start. The romance in this film makes sense, unlike other romances of this kind, such as Brokeback Mountain. The main characters’ back stories in Portrait are revealed and their needs are clear. Their relationship develops in steps that are logical. And frankly, the acting is far superior in this film to so many other stories of forbidden love. Yes Napoleon, the French can act!

While the film is slow, the details revealed about the characters lives and the tension between them, along with the fact that Portrait is amazing to look at, make this film work. Every shot is a visual masterwork full of lovely vignettes that mix light, land, air, and sea with the visage of the two main characters. The setting, an ancient mansion on an island near France in the 18th century, is part of the back drop, and it adds to the beauty and mystery of the film.

Rating: Pay Full Price. 
I like art, I like great visuals, I like dialogue with multiple connotations and meanings, and I like movies featuring people struggling with their natural desires against an oppressive society.

Tex Shelters

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