Director Martin Provost and set designer Jérémie Duchier create the biopic about a world, that of the Nabis artists and France at the end of the 19th century

There is a wonderful almond tree that in a still shy spring shows all its explosive strength in an exceptional flowering. And there is a rather elderly gentleman, no longer steady on his steps, with a vest and a hat on his head, who observes him on the path that is leading him home.

Her eyes light up in front of such beauty, then he accelerates her pace to bring it to her eyes, forced to bed. She is the nature lover, and it was she who believed that that tree would find her life again once the winter was over.

She is Marthe and he is Pierre, to be precise they are Pierre and Marthe Bonnard.

Telling the life of the painter and his muse - wife, it is a film as delicate as it is intense in its almost atomic attitude to breaking down happiness into increasingly smaller elements until it reaches the essence, then turn it into its opposite, unhappiness. Sadness, melancholy, frustration.

And then again, the joy, the harmony and that tireless game that only two lovers can play, over time.

A biopic? The term is too narrow, rather it could be defined as a small anatomical treatise on the uniqueness of a love relationship. The film is directed by Martin Provost who, with the title Portrait of a Love (I Wonder Pictures), lets the mystery that is the couple speak.

Watch the trailer for Portrait of a Love Story

The almond tree episode happens in Le Cannet, a small town in the south of France, where the couple had moved when they were elderly. But it all begins much earlier, in Paris in Bonnard's atelier, where she posed for him.

It's the first time, she doesn't even know what her name is, he hired her on the street, but in an instant passion overwhelms them. The game begins and will never stop, in an unbalanced balancing act that will lead everyone to wonder who is vampirizing who.

She is the fetish, the absolute muse, for many guilty of having isolated him from the world, for others instead the victim of her husband, a brilliant predator. Both things are probably real, they are certainly two kindred souls, perfect for becoming companions in life and art.

Vincent Macaigne and Cécile De France, in the roles of Pierre and Marthe respectively, tell the story ofParis at the end of the 19th century and that group of artists who called themselves Nabis, post-impressionists friends of Degas, Renoir and Monet, and their worldly life.

Marthe hates fictions, even if she lives in the lie of a character she invented to hide her true identity, that of Maria Boursin.

And this world of sincerity and mythomania makes her allergic to the game of sociality, that constructed theater from which she escapes, taking Pierre with her into the universe of love for solitude and nature.

This is how they move to the Roulotte, a country house on the Seine, magnificently described by the set designer Jérémie Duchier (Cesar Award /strong> for the film Chocolat) which showcases its flavor, style, but above all the light, which the director of photography Guillaume Schiffman (award Cesarand an Oscar nomination for The Artist) creates a dialogue with Bonnard's paintings.

The Caravan becomes an emblem of a way of life and in Duchier's hands it becomes a precise reference of style, more or less in contrast with the elegant houses of the city's high society, until it reaches its opposite in Rome.

The Italian capital will welcome Pierre and Renèe (Stacy Martin), his young lover, to whom he has promised marriage and a bourgeois life, in a rich and sumptuous house in the center of the city. She sets it up herself, with sumptuous furniture defined by the light that filters through the half-open shutters: Rome is in the shadows. Like Pierre's heart, she will finally decide to return to Marthe, a free and independent woman, who runs naked in the grass to dive into the river, without obeying any diktat of the society of the time.

Portrait of a Love is the portrait of an era, of two artists, of a profound feeling that binds them and of freedom. At the cinema from May 16.