Something, something ‘the duality of man’ and ‘living as one with nature’, also ‘the lone wolf’. Such are the vague narrative threads that compromise Pablo Fendrik’s The Burning. Though filled with intriguing concepts, the film fails to utilise any of them effectively to create an engaging story. Heavy on symbolism yet lacking in depth, Fenrik’s newest flick leaves viewers feeling decidedly unsatisfied.
Gael García Bernal plays a mysterious man who emerges half-naked from the Argentinian rainforest (yada-yada-‘rebirth-of-man’) and subsequently finds himself embroiled in a battle between a humble farming family and the contracted hit-men determined to burn them out of their land. All seems lost when the family is massacred by said armed men and the daughter (Alice Braga) is kidnapped. But corporate greed is no match for the unexplained skills of our nameless hero, whose inherent familiarity with the local landscape gives him a distinct advantage over the gun-wielding land rustlers.
Much like a flame, the plot smoulders before it kindles. Before it flares to a full blaze, however, it sizzles out with a limp climax. Clearly this is a film with something to say, but it’s rather flat tone and strained direction means any message hoping to be conveyed comes across as forced rather than as a natural residue of the plot. The symbolism is also laid on quite thick, leaving no room for the delicious ambiguity that plays with the audiences mind. Subtly, it seems, is not Fendriks strong point. The acting, while reasonably solid, also flounders under the lack of real character development.
The biggest problem this film faces (and that any film could ever face) is that it fails to make the audience care. The juxtaposition between man and nature was a cliché before cinema even began; to explore this concept in a fresh light on screen, a director needs to give the audience more to work with.
16 (See IFCO for details)
The Burning is released 19th June 2015