Film & TV

Film Review: Firebird

Around ten years ago Estonian director Peeter Rebane was looking for his first feature project. He was given a copy of a memoire by Russian writer and actor Sergey Fetisov: A Tale About Roman. A meeting with British actor/director Tom Prior sealed the deal, and the two went on to co-write a screenplay based on this memoire.

Firebird tells the story of Fetisov’s love affair with Roman Matvejev. Although wanting to go to Moscow to study drama, Fetisov has to do his compulsory military service. Serving on an air-base in Soviet-occupied Estonia in 1977, he meets the dashing fight-pilot, Roman. The two proceed to have an affair as discretely as possible, knowing that this could result in both of them serving prison sentences, with hard labour. After finishing his service, Fetisov moves to Moscow to pursue his drama-training dream, but he still remembers the love of his life, who he eventual meets again, in different circumstances.

Rebane and Prior have sculpted an engaging, warm, and mature script with which to tell this oft-told, but sadly still pertinent, tale. Rebane takes some space to enjoy the air-base and its cinematic possibilities, and also delivers an early-80s Moscow trying to gain some hipness just pre-perestroika.

Prior is a delightful and lovable Sergey, while Oleg Zagorodnii is intense and ridiculously hot as Roman. Rebane has certainly made the most of the love scenes, delivering some exquisite queer erotica. But this is much more than just a saga of forbidden love. It is really the story of three people: Sergey, Roman, and Luisa. Luisa (Diana Pozharskaya) is more than a third wheel, being a close friend of both men, and loving both of them, in different ways. This story is as much about deep friendship as it is about love.

Firebird is beautifully written, authentically performed, and lovingly directed. The only clanging note is the choice (understandable though it is) to work in English, with Russian accents. It would have worked much better simply in Russian.

Fetisov passed away in 2017 at the age of 64. He would have no doubt approved of this respectful rendering of his work.

Firebird is screening for ONE NIGHT ONLY on Tuesday May 17th in honour of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia at select locations.
Click here for further details

A respectful and beautiful narrative 4 stars

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