5. “If you look at me, who do I look at?”
Marianne, not as good as Héloïse at living in the moment, cannot shake her melancholy. She is painting the woman she loves to gift her to someone else. Someone she knows can never make Héloïse happy. She attempts to drive a wedge, point out the women’s differences, but Héloïse is having none of it.
She makes it clear that Marianne’s feelings are mirrored, and felt just as strongly from the other side of the canvas.
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There are two endings to Portrait of a Lady on Fire, both showing Marianne observing Héloïse as she was originally intended to do, without Héloïse having a clue.
The closing of the film sees Héloïse emotionally watching Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and remembering her time with Marianne playing the same music. It is clear that she still loves Marianne and mourns their time together.
Adèle Haenel’s amazing portrayal of this repressed woman in a display of fleeting emotions, from despair through to happiness that she had memories to cling to, is breathtaking.
3. The Lady on Fire
At a bonfire with other women who live on the island, a choir discordantly begins; off key until at the last moment it becomes beautiful.
Women’s creativity is a theme woven throughout Portrait of a Lady on Fire – Sophie embroiders, Marianne paints, Héloïse philosophises – so it is no surprise when the choir begins. The joy that Marianne and Héloïse experience is clear.
So wrapped up in the moment is Héloïse, that she does not realise her dress has caught alight.
And there she is, on fire. Forever burned onto Marianne’s creative conscience. Forever encapsulated as a woman who can set the soul aflame.