Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Burning In The Wind

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

BURNING IN THE WIND

4/10

Brucio Nel Vento : Italy/Switzerland 2002 : Silvio Soldini : 118 mins

Gloomy, lugubrious Tobias (Ivan Franek) works in a gloomy Swiss watch factory, and spends his evenings writing lugubrious poetry that looks back to his gloomy childhood in an unidentified, gloomy, lugubrious eastern European country. He ran away after stabbing perhaps fatally the man he though was just his teacher, but who turned out to be his father, and for years he’s been obsessed with the memory of a school-friend called Line (Barbara Lukesova). One day she shows up to work at his factory, by now married with a child of her own. But this doesn’t make any difference to Tobias: nothing will stop him finding happiness with the woman of his dreams, not even the discovery Lina is his own half-sister

Soldinis direction has moments of startling poetic intensity, but all his hard work counts for very little in the face of a script which, as even this brief synopsis indicates, is a hopelessly melodramatic series of contrivances and implausibilities. The initial premise isn’t bad as played by the magnetically morose Franek, Tobias is set up as an intriguing, his day-job indicating he’s in search of lost time, and a sense of completeness. His intense, brooding sensibility to extend into the films own atmosphere: there’s one remarkable, hallucinatory image of ants swarming over a white coffee cup that belongs in a drastically better film.

Because the more we find out about Tobias (who, as it turns out, isn’t even called Tobias at all) the more unlikely and irritating he becomes. Once Line arrives on the scene, events spiral from amour fou into amour farce, culminating with a final-act leap into total preposterousness which is, apparently, completely at odds with what happens in Agota Kristofs well-regarded source novel Hier its not exactly clear whats going on, but a main character is, apparently, stabbed twice in two separate incidents.

Just as the moody instrumental score, initially so beguiling and evocative, soon becomes gratingly repetitive, Tobias rapidly emerges less like a tortured, sympathetic artist and more like an egotistical delusionist, or, to put it in less poetic terms, a royal pain in the ass. He doesn’t even seem much of a poet, if the snatches of his work were given are any indication: In my head, a rocky pathway leads to a dead bird and so on. Burning in the Wind is exactly the kind of film Tobias would come up with and that’s not a compliment.

10th March, 2002
(seen 9th February, Berlinale-Palast Berlin Film Festival)

by Neil Young