How Portrait Of A Lady On Fire Avoided One Of The Biggest Pitfalls Of Making A Period Piece

“We had the time we needed,” Celine Sciamma assured the Daily Beast. “There’s only 69 scenes, which is half of the scenes of a traditional script. We thought a lot about this, how to not get overwhelmed with the things that are supposed to come with a period piece. You have to compromise and still be able to [execute] our vision.”

Never focusing away from the push-and-pull of her protagonists, Sciamma’s film is noticeably minimalistic in its production design and costuming, and there’s an explicit emphasis on functional design over aesthetics. This creative freedom comes with the subjectivity of fiction and film — sometimes it’s okay for emotional truth to be prioritized over accuracy.

Greta Gerwig’s 2019 “Little Women” adaptation takes a similar approach. There was less of a budget and time restriction going on in that film’s production, but sometimes Gerwig’s writing, costuming, and direction felt modernized and out of place. There’s a relatable, adolescent authenticity, however, that makes Gerwig’s work stand apart from other adaptations. In both films, the story and characters come first above any period limitations or restrictions.

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