Tuesday 16 April 2024

Afire (Roter Himmel) [2023]

 Afire, Christian Petzold’s smouldering and mesmeric exploration of artistic aspirations/inadequacies, creative process and self-discovery, might well be his most beguiling film to date. The Rohmeresque conversational style, languid intimacy of its setting, and unfolding relationships that’re charged yet mellow – attributes which likened it to a dry comedy of manners meets lazy hangout film, and therefore decidedly removed from his prior films – stunningly pivoted into a more melancholic, moody and elusive work by its end with hints of ecological commentary, splashes of bittersweet unrequited yearning and dazzling metafictional elements that infused new meanings into the proceedings thus far. The second chapter in his planned trilogy on mythical elements transposed into contemporaneous settings – Undine had water as its motif, while it’s fire here – and his third collaboration with the effortlessly effervescent Paula Beer (their first film together was Transit, an exquisite interpretation of Anna Seghers’ extraordinary novel of the same name), it’s centred on grumpy, irascible and self-centred writer Leon (Thomas Schubert) who’s come over to a summer holiday lodge on the Baltic Sea, along with his friend Felix (Langston Uibel), for an artists’ retreat of sorts where he plans to complete his second novel before meeting his editor while Felix works on his photography portfolio. With a nature alternating between edgy and pompous, he becomes subliminally conflicted upon finding himself in the company of the vivacious and nonchalant Nadja (Beer), who sells ice creams, has noisy romping sessions in the night, and harbours a hidden literary side; meanwhile, the ominous foreshadowing of forest fires looms in the backdrop. Buoyed by sun-kissed photography and a sparingly used score, this is a deceptively electrifying work by a filmmaker breaking new artistic grounds.

Director: Christian Petzold

Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Romantic Drama

Language: German

Country: Germany

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