Portrait Of A Lady On Fire director: It’s so powerful to feel understood

By Laura Harding, PA Senior Entertainment Correspondent

French filmmaker Celine Sciamma has said “it’s so powerful to feel understood”, after the international acclaim for her film Portrait Of A Lady On Fire.

The director’s fourth film, about a love affair between two women on an isolated island in Brittany in 1770, has been met with rapturous reviews around the world ever since it premiered at the Cannes film festival last year.

It stars Adele Haenel and Noemie Merlant as a young woman who has recently left a convent and the painter commissioned to paint her wedding portrait.

A recent preview screening at the Glasgow Film Festival as part of the Reclaim The Frame project, a BFI-funded endeavour which seeks out the female perspective in cinema, played to a sell-out crowd and was met with cheers at the end.

Sciamma told the PA news agency: “It’s so powerful to feel understood, that is what it felt like.

“Especially because it’s a love story. You give a lot of love and the fact that you receive some love back, I think it’s been the most overwhelming experience of my career.”

Discussing her inspiration for the film, she said: “I wanted to write a love story and I wanted to dedicate the film to a love story like how it’s born, how there is the rise of desire, to look very patiently, very carefully at this.

“To enjoy the pleasure of the slow burn until this love flourishes, then also in the meantime I wanted to talk about the memory of a love story and what is left from a love story, the politics of love, and to create another dynamic, that is sad.

“I also wanted to talk about a creative dialogue, and it was the opportunity to talk about these women painters that were erased from art history and when I discovered their body of work I felt even more the urge to actually make the film.”

Discussing the decision to largely erase men from the film, she said: “That was deliberate because they (the women) are officially oppressed, we know about the constraints.

“We know that they don’t have any true opportunities so I didn’t want to waste time telling about this.

“Especially with lesbian stories, its’s always like you have to represent the fact that it’s difficult, and I really wanted to show, not to tell, not the impossible love story, but the possible love story.

“Also it’s the tools of cinema, you have to use them, there’s no men in the film and when they come back, it’s like a scare jump for the audience.

“The fact that everybody can feel that is a cool and new feeling.”

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire is out now in UK cinemas.