Alex Lutz and André Dussollier, survival operation in a burning Landes forest

Alex Lutz and André Dussollier, survival operation in a burning Landes forest

Joseph (André Dussollier) and Simon (Alex Lutz) in “En plein feu”, by Quentin Reynaud.


A good surprise, it sometimes happens in the hum of popular French fiction, when a director manages to turn genre conventions to his advantage. Even more so when a privileged relationship crystallizes with an actor, and when all the strategies of a film conspire to keep the gaze fixed on him. This is precisely what happens in In full firewhere Quentin Reynaud, after Paris Willouby (2016, co-directed with Arthur Delaire) and Fifth set (2021), finds Alex Lutz for the third time, digging into the depressive vein of an actor associated with comedy, this time immersed in a survival in the Landes forest, at the heart of one of those devastating fires that make the summer headlines.

Simon, his character, as the fire approaches, is one of the last to evacuate the suburban area where he lives alone with a navy veteran father, Joseph (André Dussollier), not very mobile and refractory, visibly at odds with his son. Once in the car, the two men follow the route drawn up by the authorities but find themselves stuck in monster traffic jams on a country road, towards which the arrival of strong winds inexorably pushes the fire. Immobilized, unable to go forward, reverse or even flee on foot, father and son find themselves caught in the meanders of the blaze. With the only tool a mobile phone that picks up badly and a walkie-talkie.

earthly hell

We fear first that this principle of immobility is to the detriment of the film, brought to transpose in the ****pit the small theater of the conflict father-son. However Reynaud finds there the occasion of a salutary sobriety, favorable ground to arrange the rise in tension. Thus the threat will never be tackled head-on, nor the fire figured in digital Melmoth, but more judiciously designated by its effects, like a series of increasingly disturbing omens piling up on the road of the characters. .

Among these signs, the smoke which rises on the horizon in warlike columns, the reddenings whose progress promises a kind of terrestrial hell. It is above all the precursory sensations, the voids of the disaster, that the film works on: acrid smoke which saturates the atmosphere, temperatures which put the bodies to the test, even the repeated shocks of a panicked fauna, forcing the human walls – a fiery boar against the carcass of the vehicle, a rain of disoriented sparrows on the walls of the house.

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