“Firebird” features a well done but messy homosexual love story
Featuring a bizarre love story set at the height of the Cold War, Bird of Fire is definitely a well-played and well-shot movie. However, you will need to prepare for the melodrama.
I was provided with a free digital screener of Bird of Fire for evaluation. The opinions I have shared are my own.
If you don’t like watching heartbreaking queer stories, then Bird of Fire will not be for you. From the memoirs of Sergey Fetisov Romain’s story, this is a film that will overwhelm you emotionally on more than one occasion. In addition, the melodrama can get very messy! As very messy! If all of this is fine with you, I highly recommend you take a look Bird of Fire.
Opening at an Estonian air base occupied by the Soviets in 1977, we meet Sergey (Tom Prior), who is pondering what to do next after his conscription is complete in a few weeks. Sergey’s best friend Luisa (Diana Pozharskaya), who also has a crush on him, is a secretary who wants to become a doctor. But things change for the two friends when fighter pilot Roman Medveyev (Oleg Zagorodnii) steps in.
Due to his interest in photography, Sergey gets closer to Roman. There is certainly a spark between them. Sergey also tells him about his desire to do theater, which leads Roman to take him to see Igor Stravinsky’s film. Fire Bird.
It can also be assumed that the name of this film relates to the fighter jets that Roman is passionate about flying. Additionally, in a scene where Roman and Sergey are intimate with each other and are about to climax as they are waist-deep in the water, two jets hover over to visualize them reaching their completion. So, yes, do whatever you want with the title.
Now some viewers could sense that Sergey and Roman were falling in love too quickly. However, considering the approximate 107 minutes duration and the length of the narrative over four years, I think some developments must have happened quickly for the story to continue.
As Sergey and Roman continue their secret and very risky relationship (an anonymous report has been filed that Roman has allegedly met a young soldier), Luisa begins to have feelings for Roman as well. Although she has her own ambitions and dreams, being a woman, she is expected to settle down and start a family. And Roman is definitely attractive and kind. Of course, it becomes evident that Luisa will play the part that many women have played in such weird stories – one where she will be the collateral damage of falling in love and marrying a locked up homosexual.
Even though the tale focused on Sergey and Roman’s relationship, it also continued to explore Sergey’s bond with Luisa. The final moments of the film finally allowed the two to confront each other and express their love for Roman (after his unfortunate fate) as well as their feelings for each other. And while I appreciated that Luisa had the chance to share her emotions, ultimately Luisa is yet another example of the many aggrieved women who came before her in this type of storytelling. Even their mutual friend was angry and disappointed. Sergey played an active role in ruining Luisa’s marriage to Roman, especially with how Sergey apparently views Luisa as family. As I have said. This movie can get very messy!
I think the constant melodrama, especially after the first half, has Bird of Fire no favors. But again I didn’t read Romain’s story. So maybe all the messy stuff happened, even though it was amplified in the live-action adaptation.
Having said that, I understood how much the narrative differed from the norm. What I mean is that in Bird of Fire, the most openly gay character Sergey is able to lead a comparatively more fulfilling life as a stage actor than Roman, who has decided to stay in the closet to continue serving in the military. Often in such stories the most openly homosexual person has the small end of the stick. And in a way, even though this movie is full of heartbreak, you can imagine Sergey moving on and being able to find someone else to love.
I also liked some of the tense moments that occurred as a result of Roman’s watching due to the anonymous report. Whenever the two tried to get closer, I was preparing for someone to find them. There is a particularly intense moment when a certain person walks into Roman’s small apartment and Sergey has to hide.
As for the overall construction of Bird of Fire, this independent offering is beautifully shot and well played. I loved every place the characters met. The camera work is also impressive. Even in closed places, for example, during scenes in Roman’s apartment, the characters don’t feel quite facing you. They’re close enough to the camera to help create a sense of visual immersion, but far enough away that you don’t distract from your viewing experience.
Directed by Peter Rebane, who co-wrote with Prior, Bird of Fire was created to help connect with a large audience and share that even in 2021, a lot hasn’t changed for the queer community around the world.
“We live in a time when basic human rights, equality and freedom are still under attack around the worldShared director Peeter Rebane. “My goal with Firebird is to reveal how different family models survived even in the most repressed societies, like the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Firebird is an accidental love story, crossing the border of friendship and seeking its identity in a repressive society. Now is the time to tell this true story, to promote greater respect for the universal human right: to love and to be loved.. “
In my opinion, that sends the intended message. There are a few times when Sergey has to be bold to assert that his love for Roman is no different than the love straight guys feel. Life would have been very different for Roman and Sergey if they weren’t born or fell in love with each other in very homophobic times. And again, even today, countless gay people around the world continue to face homophobia (including being sent to jail, tortured and outright killed) for wanting to speak their truth. . And unfortunately, like Roman, many gay men end up marrying women and having children to be accepted by society and gain some sort of security.
As part of Outfest2021, Bird of Fire had its screening in person on August 21, 2021. Virtual screenings take place from today until August 24, 2021. You can get your tickets here.
Have you had a chance to watch Bird of Fire? What did you think?
Let us know.
You can read more about our Outfest2021 coverage here.
Farid has a double master’s degree in psychology and biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in molecular genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville and The Game Master of Somerville. It gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime / manga, video games, and movies.
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