“Afire” (“Roter Himmel”)
Rotten Tomatoes (4/5), Metacritic (8/10), Letterboxd (4/5), Imdb.com (8/10), TMDB.com (4/5)
Fire is a force that can destroy and devastate, but it’s also one thar can cleanse, sweeping away what’s of questionable value in order to clear space for robust, vigorous, valued new growth. And, sometimes, it can do both simultaneously, as demonstrated in writer-director Christian Petzold’s latest, a searing drama/wry comedy about four old/newfound friends who are unwittingly drawn together at a summer house near the Baltic seacoast. Their time together proves revelatory, stressful and enlightening, in part because of their interactions, the disclosures that come out of those relationships, and the looming threat of ravaging forest fires that threaten them and their existence, both literally and metaphorically. The film is a slowburn in every sense of the word, especially at the outset, with a somewhat cryptic narrative that seems rather meandering at times, but that sets the stage for what’s to follow in the back half. The picture subsequently presents a witty but profoundly insightful examination of what makes us who we are, how much we enjoy or endure our lives, and what we can do to make it better for ourselves when we eliminate what no longer serves us. In many respects, “Afire” is probably not what most viewers will expect, but, then, that’s a huge part of its appeal, a refreshing, engaging look at life and what we make of it, a valuable exercise given how abruptly it can all be taken away, leaving us to ask ourselves, what did we do with the time we had and was it indeed worth it in the end? Give this one time to unfold, and let it sink in. It may help you realize and understand more about yourself than you can possibly imagine.