Afire Review

Home » Blogs » Afire Review

Leon is a writer (pejorative), the main character of Christian Petzold’s new drama Afire. Myths like Hemingway’s tomcat, romantic poet and the child who could not speak to girls or even the artist as an adorkable wallflower are not Leon. This melancholic crank, whom Thomas Schubert depicted with just a touch of sweetness, underplayed likability buried deep down within. How much one detests this Leon may therefore depend on how much he seems relatable – thus, the more an observer recognizes themselves in him, the more they might actually find themselves recoiling from him.

Afire starts at a vacation house near the Baltic Sea in Germany for several days. Here Leon has come with his friend Felix (Langston Uibel), a photography student putting together his portfolio and wants it to revolve around water. On the other hand, Leon is there to work on his novel and dismisses water as an element rather than a theme. This is an early sign that it might be difficult to have fun on this holiday trip. More evidence comes up when he finds out that he will not be alone in that place with FelixLeon only needs 15 minutes of screen time before we are fully aware of how insufferable it can be sharing space with this man while going through some sort of sleep disorder Nadja (Paula Beers; also in Transit and Undine) is also hanging out at—but mostly bringing her love life into—the bedroom next door.

Anyone who has been trapped between work and play—when someone refuses fun opportunities but cannot complete any duties—knows well what Leon’s procrastinating anti-vacation feels like. While everyone else is enjoying themselves by sunbathing on the beach, he sits thinking about what he hasn’t done! However, less sympathetic is when his insecurity turns into hostility towards others. Devid (Enno Trebs), a local Casanova, who may or may not be sleeping with Nadja, joins them for dinner is the first hint of this. This silence after Leon’s glaringly jealous responses to their friend’s light-hearted character ends when he asks Devid how much money he gets as a lifeguard.

Afire proceeds at a simmer that feels like it could burst into flames (or criminal acts) of passion at any moment. Perhaps it is the specter of an impending forest fire in the background, which is one of those symbols of literature that practically begs for meaning from a writer like Leon. The summer fling romance possibility hangs there in the air, but will it? However, Leon played and written was such as incorrigible pill that he always seemed to be spoiling for his sojourn to the sea on an even more interesting or sensational pathway.Nadja has found that breaking through his protective cover might take some going through

Leon’s fetish for self-sabotage can be wryly amusing even if Petzold never intentionally causes laughter. At first glance this appears a departure for German writer-director whose recent movies have been tales threaded with history. (Phoenix, his haunting riff on Vertigo, remains his masterpiece.) Yet no matter how light and understated its material seems as Petzold delivers exactly what we expect from him: sharp psychological insight combined with economy of story-telling where every scene and every frame means something.

There’s also a meta aspect here, which creates an impression of an untrustworthy storyteller who is not relating the story. The point at which Afire departs from the reality of the events that it narrates is of little importance compared to our perception that Leon might be showing us how he would have liked things to be, rather than how they actually were. (The closing scene appears particularly suspicious in light of what came before it.) Fiction writer Petzold, having written many screenplays, is only too aware that one of its attractions lies in its ability to present a world as you believe it should be and not as it actually exists. In this process, who can resist the urge to indulge their ego?

But Afire hits hardest when it strips away illusions from its protagonist. Leon’s art remains his sole and most tangible connection with other people: Despite all his misery, he can smugly say that at least he is more sensitive and intelligent than those around him. Or is he nothing but ashes without anything burning? His publisher arrives late – proofreading his manuscript line by line while reading loudly in red ink – turning this into any wordsmith’s worst fear. No other horror film released so far in 2018 will cause such discomfort among self-hating writers.

Final Judgment

Christian Petzold’s new drama – winner of a Silver Bear (second place) at February’s Berlinale – does not grip like the best of his work, including post war noir Phoenix or last year’s time shifting refugee thriller Transit. Rather it reveals harsh truths about authors while featuring an always prickly novelist (Thomas Schubert) whose experiences are sometimes hilarious. It lends a meta strain to the otherwise understated narrative of this movie set in a Baltic Sea seaside house where you want to press rewind and watch again from start till end.

Also, Read On Fmovies

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *