Daily Archives: March 11, 2020

#Burning (2017)

*. There are only a couple of lines of dialogue in #Burning and I think that may be too much. They’re not essential, and, if we’re being honest, who really cares what these kids have to say? Just from looking at them one can be pretty sure it won’t be anything interesting or at all important.
*. That may sound overly judgmental, but the film doesn’t invest the proto-biker gang with any glimmerings of depth. They are prehistoric, if not quite preverbal (even their social media postings are done through images and emojis). When we see them squatting around their dissected dirt bike, hammering its parts into the ground, they might be our furry forebears from the “Dawn of Man” sequence in 2001, playing with bones. An effect that is only reinforced by their later torching the bike and dancing around it in what looks like (nay, is) some kind of tribal ritual.
*. What else do such early, forest-dwelling humans like to do? They piss in the woods. They butt heads like big-horn sheep. They engage in various dangerous displays of what we now call toxic masculinity like racing dirt bikes in Rebel Without a Cause-style games of chicken, smoking, and apparently getting lots of tattoos. Then, finally, they go looking for a female of the species who might be in rut. So, no. I don’t think we’re meant to be interested in anything they might say.
*. For a moment I feared for the faun that seems to have escaped from a petting zoo (either that or the deer in the Ardennes have grown pretty tame). But then I realized how much de-evolution has taken place, and that our modern savages would have no idea how to go about killing and eating wild prey anyway. All they want is to take selfies with it. Well, perhaps that is a kind of progress.
*. Is there some sexism here on the part of writer-director Nathalie AndrĂ©? I wouldn’t go so far as that. I don’t think she likes or even feels any sympathy for the boys really, but sees them more as part of a degraded social and cultural environment. Though they are cavemen, and dangerous (if primarily to themselves), they haven’t been encouraged to grow up/evolve. This isn’t just bad for them, but bad for all of us.
*. Our tools haven’t made us any smarter. We use hammers to break things and lawn mowers as weapons. Dead, with their helmets arranged as fittingly empty tombstones, the gang’s bodies float in a lovely final passage that fixes them like ancient insects in amber, not going anywhere. Their social media pages will preserve some part of their memory in much the same way. We can hope such digital remains won’t last as long.