8. Marianne’s Mission
La Comtesse (Valeria Golino) charges Marianne with the task of painting her daughter. This is the purpose of Marianne’s journey. What Marianne didn’t know ahead of time was that she was going to have to do this without Héloïse being made aware.
This seemingly innocuous moment is pivotal. Without the clandestine nature of her commission, there would be fewer lingering looks and fewer opportunities for the women to become friends and lovers.
7. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
This is a non-too-subtle way of destroying the male gaze.
The original painter hired to paint Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), a man, never saw her face. He painted a body in a green dress, but she refused to sit for him. Burning this attempt at a portrait could be symbolic of Marianne’s distaste of the male rules that dominate her professional field. It could be that she can’t bear to see the woman she is beginning to develop feelings for portrayed as nothing but a body on display for a man she will never love.
What is clear is that she is erasing what came before and making space for all that is about to come.
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6. “Is that how you see me?”
Marianne, unable to betray Héloïse any longer, shows her the portrait she has completed in secret. Héloïse is obviously upset, but not solely because of the lie. She seems more shocked by the way Marianne has portrayed her. She doesn’t recognise herself.
Marianne explains how her art is constrained by the rules set out by men. It is a clear metaphor for how these women have to live their lives. And Héloïse demands life and presence, pushes Marianne to accept her feelings.