Ways of seeing in the films of Céline Sciamma

Rianne Pictures

Céline Sciamma’s feature films Tomboy, Water Lilies and Portrait of a Lady on Fire each capture a different stage of life – childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Sciamma has referred to the latter as “a manifesto about the female gaze”, but the former two films serve as an equally fascinating insight into the politics of looking. 

The characters’ ways of seeing are different in each of these films, as they are in each of these stages of life. Tomboy and Water Lilies take place in suburban present day France, while Portrait of a Lady on Fire is set against the rugged backdrop of an isolated island in eighteenth-century Brittany. Ultimately, the ways of seeing in these films are always bound up in the different power structures and social pressures of their time period.

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