NYFF Review: “FIRE WILL COME”

“Fire Will Come” by director Oliver Laxe is an excellent character study that blends the struggle of a man seeking redemption and the destruction of nature into a gripping story.  These two narratives run parallel for most of the film but when they collide in the final act it leaves devastating consequences for the main character and his immediate surroundings.

The film’s protagonist is Amador, a middle aged man from a small town in the mountains of Galicia, Spain.  At the start of the film Amador is released from prison after serving 2 years of his sentence for committing arson.  Amador, played by Amador Arias, looks nothing like the typical leading man of Hollywood.  He is a broken man in his 50’s whose face shows the strain and intensity of someone who has just served a prison sentence.  We follow him on a bus ride from the prison back to his hometown in Galicia.  Beautiful drone shots that hover over and track the bus as it rides through freeways are used to show the breathtaking mountain landscape of northern Spain.  This same landscape is the one that Amador has been convicted of burning.  When he arrives home at his mother’s house in the rain, we see how the landscape is not just beautiful but rugged and cold.

Another strong decision by the filmmaker was the use of the weather to match Amador’s character arc.  From the moment we meet Amador when he rides the bus home from prison all through the first half of the film, the weather is cold, rainy, and grey.  Seeing the protagonist returning home, attending a funeral, reconnecting with his mother , and having awkward interactions with the people in his town are all underscored by the fact that he is cold and shivering in these scenes.  The grey landscape matches the mood of Amador and his depression.  Just about at the midpoint of the film, when Amador starts showing some signs of life, we see a beautiful scene where he meets and connects with an attractive woman.  Elena, the local veterinarian, responds to help Amador free his cow from a flooded road.  She uses her truck to help free the cow and then give Amador and the cow a ride home.  While riding in the truck Amador and Elena have a friendly conversation.  We finally see Amador opening up and feeling comfortable with someone, even if Elena doesn’t know his past.  This entire scene is shot on a beautiful sunny day and accompanied by Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne”, which Elena turns up on her car radio.  This shows that Elena and her friendly gestures are giving Amador some warmth and light for the first time since his release.

The climax of the film is truly powerful and tragic.  The protagonist is a convicted arsonist and in the final act his hometown is completely ravaged by a wildfire.  Amador rides home in his car and he is passed by multiple fire engines responding to a fire in the mountains.  The scenes of firefighters fighting a massive wildfire are absolutely stunning.  Wide shots of rows of trees burning are coupled with close ups of firefighters dragging hoses through the forests lit only by the orange glow of the fire and embers.  It is hard to imagine how such a tragic scene can look so beautiful but Laxe pulls it off.  The scene also hits hard due to the fact that wildfires are becoming a global crisis and the film’s narrative shows how nature is being displaced and destroyed by modern industry.  Sadly, when the smoke clears, the townspeople who are devastated by the destruction point the finger at Amador.  Once again his life, like the landscape, is ravaged by fire and he must start all over again to find his way.

This was my first time attending the New York Film Festival and the first time I have seen a film directed by Oliver Laxe.  Unfortunately, Laxe was unable to attend the screening due to his visa being rejected because he had recently visited the country of Iran.  This was a sad note to an otherwise excellent screening and the discovery of Oliver Laxe whom I will be checking up on in the future.

One thought on “NYFF Review: “FIRE WILL COME”

  1. Brendan,

    I love your critique and your stunning description of the movie. I could visualize it and experience the depth of character of the protaganist. I will definitely make every effort to see this.

    Thanks! Kathy

    Liked by 1 person

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