In Christian Petzold’s Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize–winning drama, a summer getaway on Germany’s Baltic coast unravels against the backdrop of looming wildfires.
Leon escapes to the coast to work on his second novel, accompanied by his friend Felix, who has grand plans for his art-school portfolio. Expecting solitude, they’re instead met with company in the form of bubbly Nadja (played by Petzold favourite Paula Beer), who leaves the cottage each morning and invites her local lover over in the evenings. As surrounding wildfires threaten to encroach on their languid retreat, so too do the suffocating pressures of creative unrest and social insecurity bear down on Leon’s malaise. Group dynamics shift, attraction builds and, all the while, a sense of foreboding hangs around like a cloud of smoke.
Eschewing his penchant for magic realism seen in Transit (MIFF 2018) and Phoenix (MIFF 2015), Petzold returns with the second instalment in a trilogy on nature’s elements that began with Undine (MIFF 2021). Partly inspired by characters from Anton Chekhov’s The House With the Mezzanine and Éric Rohmer’s La Collectionneuse, Afire is a delicate, at times humorous character study and an examination of the modern meaning of work, shrouded in a looming climate catastrophe.
A grand statement about love and its devastating power without stinting on the satire … In Petzold’s masterly hands, gravity and comedy work in easy and thrilling harmony.
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