Fuego: open wounds
by Alfonso Rivera
- In his film, Luis Marías shines a spotlight on the victims of terrorism in order to strongly condemn violence and show that vengeance is not the solution to overcoming trauma
Violence eats away at everything: this is the statement made by Bilbao-born director Luis Marías in his second film as a director, after making X (2002) and also writing a handful of screenplays, including the adaptation of Mensaka, for which he received a Goya in 1999. Now, he is in competition in the Official Section of the 52nd Gijón International Film Festival with Fuego [+see also:
interview: Luis Marías
film profile] (lit. “Fire”), a film that he (naturally) wrote himself, in addition to producing it with his company Historias del Tío Luis in conjunction with Tornasol Films, Fausto Producciones and Euskadi Movie Aie (international sales for the title are handled by Latido Film). Shot on location in the Basque Country, and filmed in both Spanish and Basque, the movie marks a return to the big screen for Leyre Berrocal, who is joined by cast members José Coronado and Aida Folch.
And so this film is steeped in violence right from the very first scene: we see how the life of Carlos, a police officer, is devastated by a terrorist attack when a bomb concealed in his car kills his wife and blows off his daughter’s legs. We then skip forward in time to the present, to find out whether he has managed to overcome this crushing blow. Now Carlos is living in a different city, but the flame of resentment still flickers in his head, and his obsession to make the criminal who slaughtered his family go through the same nightmare that he himself has had to endure brings him back to the Basque Country in order to carry out his meticulously thought-through revenge. In this way, he believes that he will be able to extinguish the fire that is ravaging him.
However, as Marías continually demonstrates, all this pain has been worth absolutely nothing: Carlos is like the living dead, the terrorist has been locked up, and those who remained silent will also get their just desserts. Perhaps it is time to put the knives away and – without forgetting but, instead, forgiving – look to the future: that is where we will find the new generations (the main characters’ children), who can bring everything full circle, thus healing the wounds.
By not flaunting stylistic excess and relying on his actors’ performances to carry the sheer weight of the film, Marías transforms the thriller that we see over the first few minutes into a drama that reflects how the anger caused by violence, hatred and intolerance is a revolving door that brings us back to where we started. Hatred shown towards other people is magnified many times over, becoming a dangerous vicious cycle that it is exceedingly difficult to escape from.
Therefore, Marías initially chose the genre that he enjoys the most, the crime film, because it is capable of reflecting human passions in an entertaining way: its structure leads the viewer to take an interest in what is happening, while if we scratch beneath the surface, we can discover more important social, political or moral intentions.
Although the “revenge tale” is practically a cinematic sub-genre in itself, and we have seen Chuck Norris, Charles Bronson and even Jodie Foster star in movies of dubious ethics, Marías opts for the flip side of the coin: he analyses the stupidity and the absurdity of vengeance, as it doesn’t bring anything positive to those who seek it and simply creates more pain. The filmmaker does not trivialise violence, but does quite the opposite, through a screenplay that is peppered with a number of cases that he has experienced at first hand, but which adopts a highly original approach.
(Translated from Spanish)