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Film Review: ‘Fire Will Come’ Is a Slow-Burning Visual Feast

10 November 2020


Film Review: ‘Fire Will Come’ Is a Slow-Burning Visual Feast

An arsonist gets out of prison and returns to his hometown, a small village hidden in the mountains of rural Galicia.

Director: Oliver Laxe

Cast: Amador Arias, Benedicta Sánchez, Inazio Abrao, Elena Mar Fernández

Year: 2019

Country: Spain

Language: Gallegan, Spanish

Runtime: 86 minutes

Film Trailer:

Award-winning Spanish film Fire Will Come is a cinematographer’s dream. The film’s downcast eye of the Galicia countryside, so beautifully complimenting the haunting performances of its leads, comes together to paint an intimate portrait of alienation and loneliness.

However, a lot of patience would be required to navigate through the foreboding fog the Cannes award-winner conjures. It brings to screen a form of storytelling relatively unanchored by dialogue and dramatic high points, leaving its atmosphere to fully speak for its enigmatic lead.

Fire Will Come centres on the quiet life of pyromaniac Amador (Amador Arias) and his mother (Benedicta Sánchez) in the mountainous countryside. Having just finished his jail sentence for arson, one of the first key arresting visuals of the film comes with Amador’s thick case file. It’s an ominous tone that hangs above every interaction Amador has with the townsfolk – except for with local vet Elena (Elena Mar Fernández), who has recently moved into town.

While its synopsis is threadbare, Fire Will Come’s emotional depth is anything but. The film’s two leads, both of whom are newcomers, bring across measured performances as controlled and precise as its cinematography. The film’s visual motifs and storytelling can be separated into three main sections. 

The cold rain ushers Amador back home, with his yearning for the warmth of home. Then there are the warm sunny days where while the mood is idyllic, it brings to attention the burrowing undercurrent of roots beneath the canopies and shrubbery. Then – true to the film’s title promise – there is fire, lighting up the black night yet still doing little in illuminating the mindstate of the fire’s chief suspect.

Not much of Amador is revealed even by the film’s end. He is an enigma in every sense of the word, with the only indications of life on his face is the weight of guilt and loneliness he carries. The yearning for a community is shared by his mother, with the only company being her dog and three cows. Yet even with this shared bond and their close affecting kinship, Amador hardly cracks. 

Peering in, it feels understandable why. There is tension from even the most mundane of activities. Knowing so little except for his criminal record, there is anxiety from Amador lighting a cigarette or even while him watching his mother cook. It is from this tension where Amador’s aloofness comes off as understandable, twisting even the slightest hints of emotion or pain to palpable agony. 

To be frank, the tension also does definitely arise from how not much goes on in the film. The audience may be primed from most narrative to expect the worst and to reach the crest of its drama eventually. That never comes. Much like its soft-spoken lead, Fire Will Come hardly breaks out of its whispers.

Despite a runtime that is shorter than most, how Fire Will Come is insistent on mainly telling its story through the scenery is where its challenge to the audience lies. Even then, the payoff can still feel incomplete, with the film satisfied with leaving its audience to piece together its seemingly disparate pieces of the Amador puzzle on their own.

Enjoyment of the film will mainly come from its cinematography and its visual storytelling. Andrei Tarkovsky’s compositions come to mind, particularly with the film’s long, patient view of nature. There is texture in everything the film captures; everything that nature throws at Amador is felt through the screen. Operatic numbers and sharp horns occasionally pierce through the dense visual landscape. Its use of “Suzanne” by the late, great Leonard Cohen is particularly haunting, capturing so much of the film’s intricate emotional undercurrent.

Fire Will Come is a lot like an autostereogram. Stare long enough and there is definitely beauty to be found – there will just be a need for patience. The film’s slow pace and the lack of recognisable dramatic beats will make for a challenging film. Yet, give it enough time, allow the visuals to speak, and Fire Will Come’s emotional resonance will surprise.

Don’t miss your opportunity to catch award-winning film Fire Will Come this Sunday, 15 November, on the last day of the Spanish Film Festival. Book your tickets now at the film’s Filmgarde Cineplex page.

About Spanish Film Festival 2020

Running from 5 to 15 November, the Spanish Film Festival will be showcasing a curated selection of Spanish cinema’s very best from 2019. The Spanish Film Festival 2020 is made possible by the partnership of the Embassy of Spain and Filmgarde Bugis+, where all films will be shown. For more details on the programme, visit Filmgarde Cineplexes’s website.

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There's nothing Matt loves more than "so bad, they're good" movies. Except browsing through crates of vinyl records. And Mexican food.