Petzold once again proves his prowess, crafting a film that's both visually and emotionally captivating.

“Afire” review ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Christian Petzold’s latest offering, “Afire” (originally titled “Roter Himmel” or “Red Sky”), is an emotionally charged drama that douses the audience in the volatile elements of human connection. The narrative centers around the tumultuous relationship between Leon, portrayed by Thomas Schubert as a melancholic novelist, and Felix, a lively character brought to life by the charismatic Langston Uibel.

At the beginning, the two protagonists’ contrast is evident. While Leon wallows in his own desolation, Felix is both cheerful and, at times, obliviously so. Despite their evident differences, the subtle theme of ‘elements’ brings them together—Petzold’s nod to his ongoing series, with “Undine” based on water and now “Afire” focusing on fire.

As Leon and Felix embark on a journey to a work retreat, they stumble upon the enchanting Nadja, wonderfully played by Paula Beer, whose on-screen chemistry with Petzold is apparent in their third collaboration. The introduction of Nadja and her summer fling, Devid, adds fuel to the fire, stirring emotions and evoking reactions from the ever-grumpy Leon and the intrigued Felix.

The film, while mostly intense, does carry underlying comedic undertones. It plays with irony, like when the disgruntled Leon is infuriated by the mere act of Nadja selling ice cream, or when he’s haunted by a past review from an unlikely critic. These moments provide a much-needed respite, reminding the audience of the complexities and absurdities of human nature.

The dynamic between the characters escalates when a surprising affair emerges, echoing the unpredictable fires that are consuming the surrounding forests. Petzold masterfully intertwines these plotlines, creating a symphony of tension and release.

With “Afire”, Petzold solidifies his place among the greats, evoking memories of the legendary Èric Rohmer. But unlike Rohmer’s often light-hearted touch, Petzold plunges into deeper, darker waters, guiding his audience through waves of tragedy and redemption. His meticulous direction, paired with compelling dialogues, showcases his ability to seamlessly merge literary references with raw emotion.

The climax of “Afire” might seem conveniently tied up for some, but thanks to stellar performances from Schubert and Beer, it feels well-deserved and leaves a lasting impact. In the end, the movie is not just about the flames that burn on screen, but also about the fires that ignite within us — passion, rage, and the desire for connection. Petzold once again proves his prowess, crafting a film that’s both visually and emotionally captivating.

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Petzold once again proves his prowess, crafting a film that's both visually and emotionally captivating."Afire" review ⭐⭐⭐⭐