Sciamma talked about the deliberate kernel of rebellion embedded into Héloïse’s character in the DB interview, which is expressed in various ways — both subtle and overt — during her interactions with Marianne. The artist, who uses her gaze to best memorize the subject’s features, is unable to etch the finer details that make Héloïse who she is. Despite Marianne’s best efforts, Héloïse remains deliberately obtuse, despite sharing several moments of solidarity when they hang out with Sophie (Luàna Bajrami) or exchange a few warm moments. Héloïse’s behavior, however, is understandable, as she is apprehensive of her looming marriage (with a stranger, no less) and still mourning her sister. Instead of sadness, silent, rebellious rage is expressed rather freely.
The turning point in Marianne and Héloïse’s relationship is the night of the bonfire, which is the first time they exchange genuine smiles. A group of women sings “La Jeune Fille en Feu,” and as the music crescendos, so does the gestating desire between the two, who regard each other with yearning. Suddenly, Héloïse’s dress catches fire, transforming her into a willing subject of Marianne’s desire, which the latter captures vividly in Héloïse’s portrait later on. Sciamma says the image of a girl on fire was “a compass for the film” that is “literal, not psychological,” as her motto was to be “simple, straightforward, and bold.” There are no traditional associations of “wildness” with fire, as it is meant to represent a snapshot of a woman literally on fire, declaring her love, which is captured through Marianne’s gaze.
This is when Héloïse finally lets down her guard, as the scene is an admittance of her love for Marianne.