Céline Sciamma, or the vicissitudes of love in the 18th century

Picture of the movie Portrait de la Jeune Fille en Feu ( Portrait Of A Lady On Fire ) © Lilies Films / Hold-Up Films / Arte France Cinéma

After a trilogy on youth, Céline Sciamma returns to work with Adèle Haenel in Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire), a delicate and intimate feature film on the vicissitudes of love in the world of female artists in the 18th century.

12 years after Naissance des pieuvres (Water Lilies), Céline Sciamma returns to the actress she first revealed, and begins a new chapter in her filmography, after a series of three films in which she explored the questions of femininity and gender. In Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire), Adèle Haenel plays a woman from the past: Héloïse, a sentimental and intellectual future bride, who enters into an intimate relationship on a remote island with a young artist, Marianne (Noémie Merlant), tasked with painting her portrait.

In this double portrait of women, which unfolds gracefully over several scenes, Céline Sciamma explains that she wanted to capture an "adult sentiment." "As soon as I began the film, the great challenge of capturing the experience was the intimate aspect," says the director, who entrusted Claire Mathon with director of photography role for the film, shot in 34 days on the Quiberon peninsula.

Through this love story between an artist and her model, Céline Sciamma also reveals the unknown daily life of female artists in the 18th century. The director, who set out also to explore the creative relationship between the "viewer and the viewed" chose to use professional actors for the first time, thus giving herself the freedom to be more demanding with her cast.

In preparing the screenplay for this feminist-tinged story, she also spent two years immersed in the female artistic movements of the 18th century. She also called on an art sociologist, a specialist in the painters of the period, to create a character who could do justice to the artistic world of the time.