Christian Petzold braids desire, artistic insecurity and the looming threat of climate change in his smouldering comedy of manners set over the course of a hot summer holiday on a Baltic coastline beset with forest fires.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
Two friends, insecure novelist Leon (Thomas Schubert) and photographer Felix (Langston Uibel), head to a holiday home in the woods near the Baltic Sea to work on their projects. When they arrive, however, they find the home already occupied by seasonal worker Nadja (Paula Beer) and her lifeguard lover Devid (Enno Trebs), who are anxious about the nearby forest fires. The four share the cottage, much to the chagrin of petulant Leon, who, while immediately attracted to Nadja, bitterly dismisses her and goes about denying himself summer’s pleasures—romance, swimming, even friendship—in a futile attempt to gain traction on his latest manuscript. As the fires grow closer, lust and resentment set in and heat rises between the housemates.
Awarded the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, Afire is the second film in a planned trilogy of features centering the elements of water, fire and earth. Directed by German filmmaker Christian Petzold (Barbara, Transit, Undine), the film wears its influences on its sleeve—Eric Rohmer, Agnès Varda and Chekhov among them—yet is at once signature Petzold in all its modernist melodramatic romance, making for a darkly comic and equally tragic ensemble piece in the age of climate anxiety. — Amanda Jane Robinson
“Schubert is terrific as Leon, a potentially abrasive character that he makes soft and weak and vulnerable, even pathetic at times, but never contemptible… This is a deceptively simple and straightforward but emotionally layered film, nicely acted by the tight ensemble.” — David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter