THE BURNING

PrintE-mail Written by John Townsend

Emerging from the forest like a less muscular Tarzan, mysterious stranger Kai (Gael Garcia Bernal) immediately befriends Vania (Alice Braga) and her father. When the simple farming family is threatened and the father killed by thugs sent to clear landowners to make way for industrialisation, Kai and Vania flee to the jungle before returning to exact bloody revenge.

Pablo Fendrick’s The Burning (or El Ardor in its original title) is high on visuals but low on, well, everything else. The cinematography by Julian Apezteguia is awe-inspiring in its beauty, depicting the depth and grandeur of the rainforest with a foreboding allure that overshadows anything else in the film. Such is the strength of the camerawork that the story itself feels like an aside, an insignificant and overwrought tale of revenge that is impossible to distinguish from any you may have seen before.

Fendrick thematically aims his modern western somewhere between Sergio Leone’s The Man With No Name trilogy and First Blood, with the instantly attracted couple preparing hand-made traps and defending themselves against the enemy; in this case the advance of a semi-faceless corporation. Sadly Bernal never manages to harness any of Eastwood’s charisma and comes across as a brooding, tortured soul whose true origin and motive remain a mystery throughout. Braga for her part does as well as expected with a role that gives her little to work with, quickly forgetting the brutality of her father’s death to jump the supposed spiritual bones of her potential saviour. That their relationship seems based on necessity rather than uncontrollable animal passions is symptomatic of the pace that Fendrick has instilled into his film. Never do you feel a sweaty, sultry love affair in the making; more a marriage of convenience prompted by the unfortunate circumstances that have brought them together.

As Braga’s Vania seems to lose a little interest in her farm so will the audience. The vengeance is so drawn out and lacking in urgency as to be slightly tiresome. Instead of striking when the upper hand presents itself, Kai seems to prefer to ponder the existential nature of his actions under a large tree before deciding upon the next course of action. As such, The Burning never feels at all engaging and you find yourself longing for more shots of the stunning scenery.

The Burning is not a bad film but it lacks the necessary intrigue and interest to be a good one. As an example of how a film can be strikingly beautiful without the need for CGI or elaboration, it is about as good an example you will see. Disappointingly, neither the cast nor the story ever manage to live up to their surroundings and The Burning finds itself wallowing in the depths of melodrama.

THE BURNING / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: PABLO FENDRIK / STARRING: GAEL GARCIA BERNAL, ALICE BRAGA, CHICO DIAZ, CLAUDIO TOLCACHIR / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 10TH
 
 


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