Queer Love Wins (Almost) in Russian Wartime Romance Firebird

Newly tough LGBTQIA+ crackdowns in Russia and America bring a sense of import to Bird of Fire, a deeply flawed and irresistibly romantic weepie about two Soviet soldiers in love, circa 1977. English co-writer-producer Tom Prior stars as Sergey, a soldier in the Russian Air Force who completes his military service at the Haapsalu air base in Estonia, in the Baltic. country occupied by the Soviet Union in the decades following World War II. His commanding officer wants him to re-enlist, but Sergey hopes to attend a theater school in Moscow, a dream he allows only Luisa (Russian actress Diana Pozharskaya), his fellow soldier and kind of girlfriend, who hopes he will stay to be with her.

Along comes recruiting poster-handsome fighter pilot Roman Medveyev (Ukrainian actor Oleg Zagordnii) who needs a driver and who, like Sergey, is an amateur photographer and a follower of Tchaikovsky and ballet. Sergey and Roman have crazy chemistry between them, but Prior and co-writer director Peeter Rabane, adapting Roman’s storya memoir by Sergey Fetisov, who died during Bird of Fire was in pre-production, give the two time to get to know each other before throwing them together sexually.

Their first kiss, which comes after a near moment of discovery by military police, will likely go down as the film’s most iconic moment. This kiss is urgent and warm, then joyous, each man seeming to let loose the breath he’s held for half a life. It’s a funny thing – these days, the movies have more gay couples than ever, but good kisses are rarer than ever. It’s a.

Sergey and Roman then become maddeningly reckless, even as Major Zverev (Estonian actor Margus Prangel), a suspicious KGB officer, begins to appear at every turn. Played with a nervous look from Prangel, Zverev brings much-needed tension to the story, especially in a suspenseful search for Roman’s apartment. The KGB man’s wicked energy is missed in the film’s more conventional third act, which finds Roman married and with a young son, but still in love with Sergey.

Making his feature film debut after a career in music video, Rabane, who was born in Estonia, displays natural cinematic skills that are often negated by a determination to make the film look visually lush at all times, even when beauty is not. is not what is required. In the process, he gently sells the rigors and terrors of military life, especially for those living in the closet.

Also regrettable, or just plain silly, is Rabane’s instinct for making an emotional point, like when Sergey and Roman ran off to the beach late at night to be together for the first time. With their bodies and jaws flexing beautifully in the moonlight, the new couple stand behind a giant rock on the water and just as Sergey climaxes, two fighter jets fly overhead. Sergey is shaking and so is the night sky. Phew!

It’s enough to make your eyes roll Bird of Fire, and yet the damn thing just might get to you. Prior and Zagordnii have absurdly fabulous hair and unforgivable abs, but they also work from deep emotional undercurrents. When these actors look at each other, they do so with such intensity of feeling, both sexual and emotional, that they truly channel the real Sergey and Roman, and all secret lovers like them. Bird of Fire isn’t great at all, but her lover’s embrace will probably mean the world to many.

Read more Chuck Wilson reviews here.

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