Film: A Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Set in the late 18th century, A Portrait of a Lady on Fire follows the love story of an aristocratic woman and reluctant bride-to-be Heloise and Marianne, the artist commissioned to paint her wedding portrait.
The film explores the concept of gaze through Heloise, who sternly refuses to be gazed at as a mere object by painters and society alike. Heloise, initially reluctant to pose, is observed and painted in secret by Marianne. Gradually, a hesitant companionship unfolds into a friendship and then a passionate and soulful love affair. Marianne begins to see Heloise for who she really is, and Heloise finds in Marianne a freedom and truth that seemed intangible until then.
The film resembles a painting, each scene another brushstroke, leaving behind more interpretations than earlier. It captures the truest essence and the gradual progression of queer romance, characterised by a sense of yearning, and portrayed so beautifully through the intimacy between the lead characters. The film has set a higher bar for queer women’s representation in global cinema. The layered performances of the leads, the stunning attention to detail, colour palettes and the hauntingly raw emotions portrayed in the film gives it infinite depth and life.
A Portrait of a Lady on Fire interweaves the dynamics between a painter and her subject and the forbidden romance between two women owing to an ephemeral fate into one beautiful story. Beyond just a story of love, it is one of longing, acceptance, and fond yet painful reminiscence.
Film: The Danish Girl
Set in the mid-1920s, director Tom Hopper’s work follows the story of two artists, Lily Elbe (formerly Einar Wegener) and Gerda Wegener, in the picturesque city of Copenhagen. The heart-wrenching movie was loosely based on the life of Lily, a pioneer in the transgenders’ movement as one of the first people to undergo gender reassignment surgery.
While painting one of her pieces, Gerda makes her husband, Einar, pose wearing a dress in the place of the model who was running late. This gesture plays a huge part in unmasking Einar’s identity as a woman, Lily Elbe, which she had tried hard to subdue all her life.
While the consequent events lead to Gerda being forced to realize that Lily isn’t a persona but rather Einar’s suppressed identity, Lily is confused between being herself or the man everyone expects her to remain pretending. Wanting her body to appear the same way she was on the inside, she bravely agrees to take the leap of having her gender reassignment surgery despite the heavy risks.
Although Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Lily is certainly award-worthy, it was disappointing to note that a cis-gendered man was cast to play a transgender role. Further, the film drew severe criticism for basing Lily’s character on the feminized fictional version from the book The Danish girl (2000) rather than the actual person.
The soundtrack is powerful, reflecting the rollercoaster ride of emotions that are expressed throughout the movie. Alicia Vikander, as the headstrong Gerda, brings a fresh and uplifting aspect into the movie. The beautiful portrayal of her artwork, which evolves with respect to her relationship with Lily is certainly something to watch out for.
Television Series: Schitt’s Creek
“I like the wine and not the label. Does that make sense?”, David Rose once said.
In today’s world, most sitcoms are crafted to present a fun, perfect world to the public. A life that we, the audience, would yearn for and adore. And then there’s Schitt’s Creek – a celebration of the flawed and improper, yet wondrous and beautiful at the same time. Of course the people that exist in the realm of this sitcom are in no way perfect. But the beautiful portrayal of the quirks and imperfections that make them who they are makes you appreciate the special ones in your life, just a little bit more.
The show revolves around a previously filthy-rich family of four people: an ex-video business mogul father, a former TV star and socialite mother, and their two spoilt adult children. Certain circumstances led them to lose all their money and, thus, their wealthy social connections. What does a family have after pretty much everything they own is taken away from them? Each other, and a town they once bought as a joke, Schitt’s Creek.
The story revolves around the relationships the family builds with each other and people in their new town, and the growth and fulfilment they attain in the process. The stars of the show, however, are undoubtedly David and Patrick. The portrayal of a gay couple whose relationship is celebrated and never questioned is refreshing to see. There are several references to the LGBTQ+ community over the course of the show, all showcased in a healthy, casual manner. This normalization of queer relationships is what sets Schitt’s Creek apart, leaving us with hope for a better world, perhaps in the near future.