Paradise is Burning: Who will put out the fire?

English Daily #1
Paradise is Burning (Mika Gustafson, Sweden/Denmark/Finland/Italy, 2023), International Competition, 7-7 19:30, 8-7 12:30 House of Cinema Grand Hall

Following three sisters whose bond is tested by their harsh realities, Mika Gustafson's Paradise is Burning masterfully delves into the fragile dynamics of family and survival amidst socioeconomic strife. Gustafson’s stark direction, reminiscent of the Dardenne brothers' realism and Lars von Trier's psychological intensity, gives the sensation of being plunged in the sisters' tumultuous world. Laura, the eldest of the three, embodies silent strength as a premature caregiver, while Mira and Steffi oscillate between innocence and maturity. The film’s restrained pacing mirrors their slow-burning plight, building tension through subtle interactions and an oppressive atmosphere.

Central to the narrative is the absence of a supportive social network. What makes the film stand out is the ways in which it highlights systemic neglect and societal failures without any form of didacticism. Instead, the haunting soundtrack accentuates the strong imagery, constantly adding emotional weight by underscoring moments of resilience and despair. All of this certainly doesn’t make Paradise is Burning an easy watch, but as a poignant exploration of the human condition, Gustafson's film will surely resonate long after the credits roll.

Nerses Gevorgyan