On an isolated island in Brittany at the end of the eighteenth century, a female painter is obliged to paint a wedding portrait of a young woman.On an isolated island in Brittany at the end of the eighteenth century, a female painter is obliged to paint a wedding portrait of a young woman.On an isolated island in Brittany at the end of the eighteenth century, a female painter is obliged to paint a wedding portrait of a young woman.
The film is about a love affair between a painter and her subject, both women, and in a sense it is as simple as that. There is a backdrop of male dominance overhanging the period in which the story is set - the film contains few men, and when they are seen, they appear as benevolent figures. But repression pervades each scene - the subject of the painting is an aristocratic women who is on her way to be married, and yet she isn't thrilled at the prospect and she might not have a choice in the matter. The painter, a young woman, at the end of the film displays her work under the name of her father, unable to present her work under her own name. So the specter of control is injected throughout, although this theme is only hinted at. This subtle touch gives the film an essential underpinning to what is otherwise a beautiful love story.
Some thoughts about the film-making. First: what a beautiful thing to behold. Such refined artistry is a rarity in the days of quick-consumption digital, and it goes to show how the technicians that work behind the camera are as important as what is happening on screen. Each frame is a thing of aesthetic delight, of color coordination, of subtle lighting and design elements all married into a whole. The fact that it was shot in digital rather than a traditional film look for a period piece somehow heightens and modernizes the proceedings in a way that made its most visual moments feel fresh and completely new.
Second, the respect for the audience, to not settle for petty narrative cliches when there were so many opportunities in this story to resort to them. It is one of these very pure and true stories, told with love and respect for the characters as well as those watching them breathe, yet we keep waiting for a moment of emotional violence between the main players, which doesn't occur. When I became aware of how delicate this story was as it unfolded to its end, I was moved to my core.
This is a revolutionary and passionate film on many levels, and I believe those who have seen it can only attest to that. It kind of defies criticism beyond that fact.
- Feb 4, 2021