One summer day, friends Leon (Schubert) and Felix (Uibel) arrive at the rustic country house on the Baltic Coast owned by Felix’s mother. There they’re surprised to find another houseguest, the alluring Nadja (Beer), who later couples noisily upstairs with handsome lifeguard Devid (Trebs). A writer, Leon is struggling with his newest novel and seems irritable at all the distractions, even as he subtly fixates on Nadja and nervously awaits the arrival of his publisher (Brandt). Meanwhile an approaching wildfire adds to the tension.
Director Petzold scores again with this subtle, beautifully played thriller. We experience the story largely from the perspective of Leon, a doughy, scowling figure whose cranky self-importance hides massive insecurity. Beer also captivates as a sexy, self-assured free spirit whose presence puts Leon further off-balance. These emotional undercurrents swirl amidst the bucolic beauty of a German summer, though increasingly there’s smoke in the air. Winner of the Silver Bear at Berlin, “Afire” burns bright.