The Burning (El Ardor)
An ambitious project aiming to turn the traditional western on its head, The Burning is an Argentinian adventure flick that is visually stunning but lacking in substance. Gael Garcia Bernal portrays a mysterious man who emerges from the Argentinian rainforest, to rescue the kidnapped daughter (Alice Braga) of a poor farmer after mercenaries murder her father and take over his property.
The Burning is director Pablo Fendrik’s third feature film and it is the biggest one yet: not only does it benefit from a larger budget, it also stars popular actors. Firstly, there is Gael Garcia Bernal, known to international audiences for his roles in Walter Salles’ The Motorcycle Diaries and Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá También. Alice Braga (City of God, I Am Legend) steps in as Vania, the only female character in this story of vengeance, and probably the only character that is ever truly developed. While Vania is just an ordinary peasant woman, taking care of the men in the farm at the start of the film, by the end she grows into a stronger character, with independent thoughts and ideas. Ultimately, she proves to be the one that manages to come up with a plan of vengeance: one that is a lot more thought-through than those that the men are proposing.
The influence Sergio Leone’s westerns had on The Burning is pretty obvious, especially in the face-off scenes between the peaceful farmers and the mercenaries. However, this influence is sometimes represented in such a literal way that it is almost laughable, which is definitely not the desired effect of a film that aims to portray such serious issues as deforestation and the violent eviction of people from their lands. While Fendrik tries to portray the struggle Argentinians are facing today, setting it out in a sort of a “jungle western”, he fails to truly tell their story. In other words, there are gory images and violence aplenty, but apart from shocking the audience, they do not have a convincing plot to account to. The characters are very underdeveloped too, which is not helped by the shallow acting from the cast, both known and unknown.
Finally, The Burning is doubtlessly beautifully shot, making the Argentinian jungle look truly majestic. However, too many lingering shots, poor dialogue, and questionable scenes make this one a drag.
The Burning is released nationwide on 19th June 2015.
Watch the trailer for The Burning here: