Firebird brings a bit of authenticity to the style of gay tragic romance films

by Claire MeekinsAnd 2nd year English literature

The doomed romance of Sergey (Tom Pryor) and Roman (Oleg Zagorodny) is compelling but also deeply vulgar. The atmosphere of the Russian war lends the film some authenticity, as well as a poignant and timely reminder of the horrific discrimination that gay couples face (and continue to face) across both countries and time periods. Despite this reminder, the film’s general lack of originality unfortunately makes it somewhat unforgettable.

The film’s joyous moments shine brightly in contrast to its literal and tonal gloom. In one memorable scene, lovers take a trip to the beach and experience a short day of blissful freedom, depicted in warm, vibrant colours. Scenes like this are refreshing and give the film a glimmer of hope, but it’s hard not to feel the anticipated tragedy looming beneath them.

Courtesy of IMDB

This is a tragedy that is clearly important to highlight, but firebird Very little is new in the style of gay tragic romance films. The historical films about these doomed and forbidden lovers have been oversaturated with the prevailing queer film canon. This is problematic because it suggests that homosexuality is something that can only end with “punishment,” rather than a celebration of love between two people. Roman’s death seems to be used as a tool to tie the ends and make an emotional impact, as if the director (Peter Ripani) was afraid to deviate too much from this predetermined format. Heartbreaking tragic movies can be very successful, but when the movie delivers so little, it’s unique (as in the case of firebird), becomes forgettable in a sea of ‚Äč‚Äčincredibly similar narratives. Of course, a gay couple in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War didn’t have an easy time (and the fact that the movie is based on the true story limits that); However, it would have been nice if the movie focused more on the moments of joy that can be found “living in the gaps”.

Courtesy of IMDB

So he said, firebird It still packs an emotional punch that’s well worth the experience. The cinematography is excellent throughout with shots of the snowy gray Moscow skyline helping to create a moody atmosphere. Although the acting is a little cheesy in the more romantic scenes, it’s great in moments of pity with both Pryor and Zagorodny displaying their ability to convey strong emotions with a simple glance. The use of photography as an element reinforces the importance of staring at a film with an image often serving as a trigger for action. It also allows for a shared passion between the spouses, culminating in a scene of “mutual stares” in a makeshift darkroom.

Margus Prangel as the KGB’s fearsome pioneer delivers a solid performance. His menacing calm and physical stature make him feel like an absolute force looking to destroy Sergey and Roman’s chances of happiness. The film’s tension drives the first half and, quite powerfully, feels threatened without departing too far from a caricature of evil. His character is a powerful reminder of the external forces that prevent a married couple’s romance in a film that is mostly concerned with the barriers they personally set themselves.

Courtesy of IMDB

firebirdHis best parts are where he deviates from the metaphor and allows new ideas into his narrative. Its timing in relation to the discrimination practiced by those who were under the Soviet regime lends it a new element, but overall, the end result is too cliched to be truly original.

Featured image: IMDB, Herkki Erich Merila

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