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Pirópolis (2024)

-Written by Kyle Bain.


Opening to a literal slow burn, Pirópolis introduces viewers to a world that is burning to the ground, one that threatens the lives and the livelihood of all living in Valparaíso, Chile. The world is crumbling before them, and a group of firefighters, volunteers at that, must work to save the world as they know it. 


If you’ve ever stood around a bonfire and become mesmerized by the bright beauty that sits before you, then you understand the potential of Pirópolis. Writer-Director Nicolás Molina and Co-Writer Valentina Arango understand how to captivate viewers in this regard. There are numerous instances in which we feel like we are immersed in the dangerous beauty of the fire raveging Valparaíso–and these are the most intense, yet most satisfying times of the film. 


There is one scene in particular in which a fire burns before the city during a riot. Steeped in incredible symbolism, this is the most beautiful, most effectively executed piece of Pirópolis. As a pile of wood burns (and we sit just inches from its tremendous power) it creates an illusion of darkness, temporarily forcing viewers to believe that it’s nighttime. We quickly see the reality that it’s daytime, however, and the world, regardless of the fires, is forced to go on in the background. Nearly every shot involving fire is technically sound, immersive, chilling–but this is the epitome of what the team behind Pirópolis is capable of creating. 


Pirópolis briefly turns political–but only to supplement the already existing narrative and to better express the reality of how the world is burning (both literally and figuratively). The film finds a nice balance when it briefly discusses politics, and it uses this discussion to the film’s benefit rather than its detriment. 


With that said, however, the majority of the film focuses more heavily on the firefighters rather than the fire. Pirópolis lost me in these moments. Just like the slow burn of the fire, Pirópolis moves disgustingly slow when focusing on the firefighters. Sure, their collective story has the potential to be interesting, to appeal to viewers, but the reality is that this aspect of the film is boring. I found myself struggling to remain focused, as there isn’t much to focus on–not much to take in. The film is mostly filler, and sadly the many faces of the fire department fall victim to being that filler. They aren’t the content that the viewer wants, and they aren’t the content that the film needs–they simply exist, and far too much in the foreground. 


Pirópolis has moments that greatly appeal to viewers, and that often comes as a result of the immersive cinematography. When viewers get up close and personal with the fire that threatens Chile, the film thrives. When Molina chooses to step back and to focus on the firefighters, (even though it only seems fair that they get some recognition) the film falters. It seems that Molina understands this, however, as he frames his film with shots of the fire–not of the firefighters. Pirópolis both starts and ends strong–but with so much dead space lurking throughout the film, it’s a challenging film, one that only finds success through about half of its runtime. 


Directed by Nicolás Molina. 


Written by Valentina Arango & Nicolás Molina. 


5.5/10 = WORTH WATCHING, BUT YOU’VE BEEN WARNED


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