Firebird (Peeter Rebane, 2022)

Peter Rebane’s wartime romance Firebird courted controversy in the run up to the release, with Russian attempts to silence the film in the country. It is also being released into a market with little or no interest in a story showing any aspect of the Russian military, given the recent invasion of Ukraine. 

Watching it objectively is, therefore, an art in itself. 

It stars Tom Prior and Oleg Zagorodnii as two military men – Sergey and Roman – who develop a secret romance, in spite of its illegality in Soviet Russia at the time. It’s a beautifully written piece of romantic drama, with the two leads doing well to portray the kind of electricity only found in such forbidden passions.

I won’t be looking into how much of the film is true to life and how much has been fabricated for the film. Doing that usually makes it far less enjoyable!

I did fail to deal with my utter dislike of any English-language film that sets itself in a foreign country, but then asks the actors and actresses to speak in English but with a hint of an accent. Tom Prior sounded close enough in the more placid scenes but as soon as there was any intense emotion in his wording, you could hear his Dorchester accent much clearer. In fairness to the wider film, the cast is primarily made up of Estonian actors and actresses, with a handful of the lead roles being taken by British actors.

Russian actress Diana Pozharskaya puts in a powerhouse performance as Luisa, a friend and lover caught in the middle of the two men. She turns in a particularly impactful scene at the end, which I can’t discuss without spoilers!

This is a film worth seeking out, even if you’re put off by the Russian/Soviet setting. Romance done well is always a joy to watch and this is no exception.