Winner of the Silver Bear at this year’s Berlinale, Afire is the second part of Christian Petzold’s Elements Trilogy, following his 2020 water-based Undine.
There is no peace in this irrational and uneven work
In the narrative, self-loathing writer Leon and the less contorted artist Felix go on a summer retreat to a house in the woods somewhere near the Baltic Sea, where unexpected fellow house guest Nadja stimulates both Felix’s trip and Leon’s creativity.
Thomas Schubert is excellent as the neurotic author, who is a bit of a drip and perhaps the worst person to go on a getaway with. Tugging at the undercurrent of this comedy are the Petzold trademarks: a distinctive locale that’s a character in and of itself, an inventive narrative structure and that perennial sense that something deeper is guiding things – a myth, a melodrama or a historical subtext.
As this social-embarrassment comedy slowly grabs you, the poetics of atmosphere and nature-bound forces reveal a beguiling and bewildering panorama of environmental tragedy: the fury of Pompeii. There is no peace in this irrational and uneven work; Afire is a spontaneous and stifling piece of cinema. ★★★★
- Afire, D: Christian Petzold. Starts April 24, with Thomas Schubert and Paula Beer