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AFIRE

Roter Himmel

Christian Petzold | 2023 | 103 MINS
Germany
Preview - Germany

Emotions run high among a group of friends in a holiday home by the Baltic as the parched forest around them catches fire. (Christian Petzold’s film won the Silver Bear at the 2023 Berlin Film Festival.)

In Detail

We hear that “something’s not right” before properly meeting any of the characters.

The car breaks down in the middle of nowhere; two young men have to carry their luggage the rest of the way; one of them suggests a shortcut. Leon (Thomas Schubert) seems more sceptical, while Felix (Langston Uibel) leads the way to his family’s summer house. Inside, suspicions rise as the pair encounter signs of someone already living there: last night’s plates and glasses on the table, food leftovers, the buzz of the washing machine, a red pair of high heels and purple underwear on the floor.

Suspicion becomes embittered curiosity. While, on one level, it seems to belong to international cinema’s increasingly prevalent strain of climate catastrophe dramas, on another it’s a brittle character piece, a comedy of social embarrassment with a dark and ultimately tragic undertow. Until, that is, a coda ties it off in another register entirely.

As in the best Petzold films (‘Barbara’, ‘Undine’), complications build quietly. Small revelations provide insights into human nature that each viewer may interpret differently. But build they do, until we are fairly devastated by the film's conclusion. Engrossing, provocative, captivating and refreshingly un-Hollywood with shades of Eric Rohmer's romantic films. (Subtitles)

Our thanks to Curzon Film for this screening.

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