Blessed By Fire
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Acclaimed director Tristán Bauer presents the harrowing story of a band of Argentinean soldiers sent to fight an un-winnable war and left to bear the brutal scars of the past. After learning of a friends attempted suicide, a journalist goes back to relive his experiences in the Falklands.
War is bad, and that about sums up the message of Blessed by Fire (a.k.a. Illuminated by Fire), a well-meaning but thinly written drama that boasts some dynamic scenes of battlefront futility. To be fair, director Tristan Bauer's emotionally potent drama did win the Best Narrative Feature award at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival, and it has the distinction of being the first Argentinian film to openly address the physical and psychological devastation that resulted from the brief 1982 war against British forces in the British-colonized Falkland Islands (or Malvinas, as they're known in Argentina). The legacy of that woefully imbalanced war is tragic beyond comprehension: In Argentina, the number of suicides among Malvinas war veterans is higher than the number of casualties from the war itself, and that sad statistic crucially informs Bauer's story (based on a novel by Engardo Esteban and Gustavo Romero Borri) about a present-day journalist named Esteban (Gaston Pauls) who served in the Malvinas war with Vargas (Pablo Ribba), who's now comatose and hospitalized after attempting suicide with a drug-overdose cocktail. The film flashes back-and-forth from the present to their experiences leading up to and including the decisive battle on Mount Longdon (re-created in a harrowing 20-minute sequence), and while Blessed by Fire is certainly no Saving Private Ryan, its chaotic battle scenes are impressively intense and painstakingly realistic, and Bauer is equally effective in showing the miserably cold battlefield conditions prior to the eruption of violence. As Esteban's memory takes him back to the horrors of battle, his friend's present-day suicide attempt resonates throughout the film, which is surely more powerful for Argentinian viewers than for anyone else. We learn very little about the central character, however, and Paul's performance is too passively blank to draw us deeply into his emotional turmoil. Still, this is one of the few films to deal with what has essentially become a forgotten war, and Bauer's noble reminder offers reassuring proof that Argentina's sacrifices will not be forgotten. --Jeff Shannon
- In Spanish with English subtitles
- Original theatrical trailer
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Top Customer Reviews
those who dismiss it as overly familiar and done better before.
An intense, fascinating look at the Falklands war, from the Argentinean
soldier's POV, it begins with the attempted suicide of an ex-solider,
which throws his war-time buddy into remembrances of the hell these men
While the war may have seemed a silly little flare up about a bunch of
rocks to most of the world, to the Argentinean draftees who lost their
lives their limbs and their sanity in a futile, under equipped attempt
to hold off a wildly more powerful British force was as real to them as
Vietnam or Iraq or the coast of Normandy was to the men who suffered
and died there.
Indeed, through this film's eyes it was worse, because it was an
absolutely pointless and quickly forgotten war, drummed up by the
generals back home as a nationalistic exercise to take the country's
mind off its faltering economy,
And then, in the ultimate ignominy, the men are sworn to silence about
their defeat (and, presumably, abusive treatment by their own
Any war where more of the soldiers die of suicide in the years after
than on the battlefield itself is indeed worth examining.
The film succeeds in capturing the horror, confusion, and fear,
although it doesn't quite get under the skins of the characters enough
to make us understand on a visceral level. I was never bored, but
nowhere near as deeply moved as I wish I had been.
--mild spoiler ahead--
Still, I would have rated this higher except for a stumble in the very
last seconds of the film, where suddenly a burst of sentimentality and
latent nationalism in the form respectively of a pop song, and a last
screen graphic made me question if I had been giving the film too much
credit for having an enlightened point of view.
The story begins some time after the end of that unnecessary war when Esteban gets word that one of his erstwhile army buddies has attempted suicide – this is Alberto Vargas and he goes to see him at the hospital where the sight of his friend makes him remember his fifty days of hell in a war he never wanted to fight. This is told in flashback and as we go through his war we also go through his friends fight to cling to a life he wanted to shuck off.
The battle scenes are done really well and you get a very real sense of how bad it was for these mostly conscripts who had to fight the British Taskforce. The Malvinas – as the Argentineans call them- are occupied by British descendants and their right to self determination has never been acknowledged by Argentina and so there is a bit of politicking here too – that some will not agree with. There are scenes that will move you and some that are gruesome and the whole film is made in a way that just reaches out to the viewer. Director Tristán Bauer has only made one film since this and so we are well overdue for another great piece of cinema – like this one – completely recommended.
One of the main characters is Esteban Leguizamón (Gastón Pauls), a journalist who is informed that Vargas (Pablo Ribba), one of the men he served with in the Malvinas' war, attempted to commit suicide. Vargas suffered from depression, and couldn't live with his memories any more. Esteban visits Vargas at the hospital, and that situation prompts Esteban to remember what it was like for him and his friends to fight a war they were not prepared for.
The screen is flooded by images of Esteban, Vargas, and Juan (César Albarracín), young Argentinian men fulfilling their compulsory military draft, men that in a matter of hours saw themselves in a life and death situation, in the middle of a war for the Malvinas Islands. These young men didn't want to be soldiers, they were forced to try to behave likeones. They had many enemies, not only the English soldiers, but also the cold, the lack of proper clothing and food, and military leaders without sensible ideas. It is astounding to see how young they seemed, and how unfair the whole situation was...
"Iluminados por el fuego" talks about the Malvinas' war, but also tells us about the suffering that all wars bring about, and the toll they take on survivors. We should take that into account, and care. No military action should be taken lightly, ever. Even if the justification for a war is good, negotiation should always be the first option, and the use of force only a last resource, certainly not a decision to be taken due to political opportunism.
It is not easy to watch this film, but I think everybody should. It makes you care.
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