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THE FIRE THAT BURNS may seem like an odd title for this French film originally titled LE VILLE Don't LE PRINCE EST UN Infant ("The Land Where the King is a Child") - until the final scene. But such idiosyncrasies abound in this story set in Paris and at times the blend of surrealism, nascent passion, mysticism, philosophy, and ecclesiastic order makes this film feel like visual and cerebral flights of fancy. The trip is worth it! Abbot de Pradts (Christophe Melavoy, who also directs) is a handsome, sensitive priest in a Catholic boys school in Paris, a school whose boys live both on-campus or at home. de Pradts has taken under his wing a poor, beautiful young boy Souplier (Clement van der Bergh) whose studies suffer and who is somewhat of a behavior problem. Souplier thrives on the attention paid him by de Pradts, but is more focused on another older student Sevrais (Nael Marandin) with whom he spends time skipping classes, exploring, and actually loving: the very pure and lovely love affair between these two lads is beautifully captured by both the actors and the director. It is not long before de Pradts feels jealousy for the influence of Sevrais on Souplier, and eventually de Pradts finds a way to remove Servais from the school. This of course results in his demanding that Souplier forsake Sevrais and the results of this demand constitute the finale of the film best saved for the viewer to discover. Though the suggestion of de Pradts' physical attraction to Souplier is sub rosa, the head of the school Father Superior (Michel Aumont) observes the dynamics and in a visceral confrontation between the two priests probes the meaning of sacred vs. profane love. The sublime intelligence of this duet is some of the best writing ever for film on this difficult subject and both Malavoy and Aumont give performances of great power and depth."The Fire That Burns" is that passion within the soul that can lead to evil if not sublimated. de Pradts has fallen victim to that fire and allowed 'the child to be the king of his land'. This is a powerful movie, graced with stunning sets and photography, and a score that is based on Gounod's music ('Kyrie eleison') throughout. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, November 2004
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