Writer-director Pablo Fendrik’s The Burning is an atmospheric Western. Genre influences are clear, nevertheless the film has enough meat to keep viewers entertained.
A farmer enlists the help of a mystery man in fending off mercenaries hell-bent on acquiring his land. When the farmer’s daughter is kidnapped, the mysterious Kaí sets off on a mission to rescue her…
The Burning is a highly stylised Western offers impressive visuals and tone. The film features a classic revenge narrative, as well as a number of other genre tropes. This results in a film which is aware of its roots, and pays homage to them, to a certain extent. It appears that writer-director Pablo Fendrik set out to create a classic Western, albeit in a different environment.
The Burning has a particular setting which works in the overall scheme of the film. Set in the Argentinian rainforest, the environment is remote enough for such action to take place. There is not a real indication of the temporal setting; the lack of technology suggests a non-contemporary setting, but the costumes do not indicate the classic Western era. This ambiguous environment sits well with other themes in The Burning.
The film’s opening sequence works well to convey brutality, but also to generate mystery. What follows is a traditional revenge saga, with a mysterious protagonist at the centre. As The Burning progresses, viewers find out a little more about Kaí, although Fendrik keeps a knowingly unnatural edge. The subtext in the film is almost so overt that it is simply text, yet the themes and the brooding silences generate a memorable atmosphere.
The climax of the film is a little overblown, particular with some overbearing sound design. Cinematography is excellent, with the use of light and colour really emphasising the setting, as well as providing a strong symbolic point to the themes. Gael García Bernal and Alice Braga offer good performance, often conveying mood and feeling through expression alone.
The Burning is a decent relocation of a classic Western story. Fans of the genre should be satisfied with this offering.