Love can be difficult at the best of times. Forbidden love can be dangerous in many ways, but true love is something else completely. You will do anything for true love, including risking everything and potentially facing jail time. Firebird takes an intimate look at the battlefield of love, focusing on two Air Force men in Estonia during the Cold War, who must keep their relationship a secret, or face dire consequences.
Based on the memoir of Sergey Fetisov, Firebird is a moving true story that explores the forbidden romance of Sergey Serebrennikov and Roman Matvejev, a private and a fighter pilot in the Estonia Air Force, that spans several years. Homosexuality is illegal in the Soviet occupied Estonia due to Article 121 which forbids consensual sexual relations between men, and was punishable for up to 5 years in prison. Sergey and Roman hit it off from their first encounter, both sharing their passions of photography and the arts. Roman is content with his life in the Air Force, but Sergey dreams of becoming an actor once his compulsory military service comes to an end.
Sergey is portrayed by Tom Prior, who also helped write and produce the film, which also translates to his performance. There is so much passion in his performance, which really makes you feel deeply for not only the romantic struggles he portrays, but the inner doubts and turmoil he faces. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. Paired with Oleg Zagorodnii who plays Roman, the pair deliver a powerful and moving performance. Through their incredible chemistry and performances, you get real feel of the challenges they endure and the ups and the downs of the relationship.
The film is captured beautifully and feels very intimate, almost like you’re standing right there during some of the scenes. I also noticed that the beginning of the film felt really drab and gloomy, but as the film progresses and the relationship develops, the film gets brighter and more colourful. I’m not sure if this was intended or not, but found it to be a nice creative touch and it helped elevate the story, giving much needed hope and warmth along the way.
A lot of the interior sets on the film are pretty bland, especially those within the Air Force base, naturally. The only exception here is the stunning theatre that the pair visit to watch the opera. But the exteriors really make up for this, featuring beautiful countryside and picturesque beach locations, but it’s kept restrained to not over shadow the story and true meaning of the film.
Put simply, Firebird is a beautifully constructed story of forbidden love between two men during a time when the world was not as accepting as it is today. One man is all in, willing to risk it all, while the other is not, taking on a wife and family to build a façade of normality. With a passionately and cleverly creative written script complete with stellar performances, combined together make for a great film with a heart-breaking but touching ending. The film is only in cinemas for one day on Tuesday the 17th of May in select cinemas and is a must-watch, so get out there and see it!