First of all, let me say that drug movies freak me out. It’s a personal thing; nothing really against the writers or filmmakers. But last night’s Chicago premier of Things We Lost in the Fire at the Chicago International Film Festival was not a drug movie.
One of the characters in the film, Jerry (Benicio Del Torro),struggles with addiction, but this movie certainly doesn’t stay there and build its home like many glorified drug movies. Things… is slightly reminicent of 21 Grams which, ironically, also features Del Torro.
The film is mainly about living through all forms of tragedy and lost, which is surprisingly not as depressing as it sounds (the film isn’t a total downer — it also offers comic relief and beautiful redemptive moments). Audrey Burke (Halle Berry) plays a wife and mother who is forced to cope with a loss.
The best way to describe this film is, touching. The writer of the film, Allan Loeb, who attended the screening along with the film’s director, Susanne Beir, wrote some of the most genuine, authentic, and profound movie lines I’ve heard in a while. Both Beir and Loeb understand that sometimes the most powerful things are said during your darkest moments, particularly through the mouths of children. I loved how the filmmakers used the purity and virtuous honesty of children to communicate the story rather than simply leaving the seemingly “adult themes” to the adults. Often filmmakers act as though children have nothing to say about life and death, when in actuality they can serve as the guide and the mouthpiece for those profound moments. This movie understands that, but it also understands that what we say and do during our tragic moments not only reveal who we are, but get to the true essence of living.
Things We Lost in the Fire was Beir’s first English-speaking film. She’s a highly respected and popular director in her native Denmark. Her extreme closeups of facial features and her soft and subtle eye are like a breath of fresh air. One of the notable things she said last night during the Q&A is that race (the film centers around a bi-racial family) had nothing to do with the film, nor should it.
Beir’s perspective and technique are beautifully refreshing; certainly unconventional compared to American filmmaking. I’m not sure if that was related to her being a female auteur, Danish, or both, but whatever the case, we need to see more of it.
You have until October 17th to visit The Chicago International Film Festival.