Sun. Jan 26th, 2020

Compassionate portrait of a Galician pyromaniac

The movie starts with energy, almost with anger. A monster that we do not see at first knocks down the huge eucalyptus that is in its path at high speed. The camera is approaching and we distinguish first the headlights and then the housings of the bulldozers that are slaughtering the trees. It is the first major impact of
What burns
, the film with which Oliver Laxe (Paris 1982), proud son of Galician emigrants, won the prize of the jury of the section A certain regard of the last Festival of Cannes.

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What burns It is among other things the compassionate and unjudgmental portrait of an arsonist of those who are ending the forests in Galicia. His name is Amador, just like the actor who plays him (Amador Arias). He has just served his sentence as the cause of a great fire and returns to the village where his mother, Benedicta (also called as the actress, lives), Benedicta Sánchez). "Are you hungry?" She says when he sees him as if he was returning from a walk. It is the only sincere welcome, along with that of the dog, that the newly released will receive from the inhabitants of the area.

When Amador explains to his mother how the roots of eucalyptus prevent other plants from growing, she responds: "If they suffer, it is because they suffer."

In one of the key scenes of the film, Amador explains to his mother how eucalyptus spreads its roots across several kilometers around it. The dense network that they create in the subsoil prevents other plants from growing, he says. Benedicta responds without flinching: "If they suffer, it is because they suffer."

Frame of 'What burns

Frame of 'What burns'

In conversation with The vanguard Regarding the meaning of the work, Laxe emphasizes that his main purpose was to address the issue of fire and arsonists with "tolerance, mercy and love." As the drama of the fires on their land is usually treated with too much prejudice and intolerance, he adds. And it is important to know that both the lack of measures to counterbalance the emptying of the countryside and the effects of climate change or the interests at stake in certain areas of the mountains have as much or more to do with this problem than the hated incendiary.

Laxe wants to "open consciences and hearts" about the problem of fires. And address the issue of arsonists with "tolerance, mercy and love"

The film therefore seeks to "open the consciences but also the hearts" to an issue whose causes, in short, "maybe we are all a little guilty," he says. So Laxe does not hide his claim that, at least during the hour and a half of footage of the film, the viewer “lives with the spiritual scar of the protagonist” and, if possible, “empathize with him even if we do not justify the acts that are they attribute to him ”.

Oliver Laxe, with Benedicta and Amador

Oliver Laxe, with Benedicta and Amador
(Eliseo wheat / EFE)

What burns, with excellent photography by Mauro Herce, culminates with scenes of fire that overwhelm. Although they were previously trained, it is clear that the director and his team played their skins by getting into the jaws of the real fire they filmed. They shot with film and came to fear that the celluloid could not stand the heat. They were able to do it at the end of a particularly rainy summer, when they already thought that nature had ruined their plans with so much water. Only in the end did they have the bad good luck that the llamas reappeared in the Galician mountain.

And a curiosity. Amador hates fire. Years ago he was a forest ranger and came to discover an arsonist.

The leading actor was a forest ranger

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