The BFI Flare Film Festival runs from 17th to 28th March 2021, celebrating the best of LGBTQI+ cinema. Premiering at the festival is Peeter Rebane’s Firebird, a forbidden love story between two members of the Soviet Air Force during the Cold War. Sergey (Tom Prior) is a young private, desperate to leave the Force and embark on a cultured and artistic life in Moscow. Roman (Oleg Zagorodnii) is a respected lieutenant who wishes to work his way up higher in the ranks. Brought together by their mutual love of photography and Luisa (Diana Pozharskaya), Sergey’s friend and Roman’s lover, the men fall for each other and the film chronicles the six years of the men losing each other and, inevitably, being brought back together again. Prior and Zagorodnii give subtly electric performances with chemistry that effectively drives the tale forward.
Firebird follows a similar narrative to many other stories of forbidden love and the lengths people will go to to suppress what can only be described as the most natural feeling. The narrative follows the two men as they embark on their own individual paths that collide and separate again, watched closely by suspicious colonels who threaten imprisonment. What is striking is the film’s triumphant inversion of the repetitive trope of the woman as the collateral damage in the homosexual love affair, often portrayed as a weak, naive and oblivious bystander whose feelings are not accounted for. Luisa is a fully rounded character, not only hurt by her lover’s true sexuality but her friend’s betrayal. Here, the destruction of friendship delivers as much tragedy as the denial of love.
This film does not only illustrate the militant suppression of homosexuality, but also of all the things taken for granted in the Western world: parties, friends, art, theatre, dance, desires, dreams. Sergey must hide his love for Roman as well as his aspirations as an actor, and his appreciation for theatre, dance and music. When he moves to Moscow to pursue acting, his character is totally altered, highlighting that what the audience knows of Sergey’s character is up to this point only the tip of the iceberg.
A tragic, intimate and unforgettable love story, reminding viewers to appreciate the ones they love and the things that make them who they are.
Firebird premiered at the 2021 BFI Flare Festival on 17th March 2021 and is available the stream via BFI Player until 28th March 2021.
Read more reviews from our BFI Flare 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the BFI Flare website here.
Watch a clip from Firebird here: