As it comes to a close, it’s clear that the 2021 Sundance Film Festival has been rather eventful. A numerous amount of surrealist films have taken center stage as they forced viewers to question reality. Many took inspiration from previous eras, specifically when it came to the horror genre. “The Blazing World” is no exception.
The NEXT category exists with the purpose of presenting films that defy conventional style when it comes to filmmaking. Break the rules, challenge your audience and propose the question of ‘What exactly is proper filmmaking?’ “The Blazing World” premiered as part of this category during the 2021 Festival. It had previously premiered at Sundance as a short of the same name in 2018.
Carlson Young was able to write, direct and star in her own debut feature film. She co-wrote the picture alongside Pierce Brown, the New York Times bestselling author best known for his science fiction works. The multi-hyphenate creator is best known for her acting appearances in projects such as “Scream: The TV Series,” “Key and Peele” and “Emily in Paris.” What many probably wouldn’t know is that she is fascinated by classic European horror. This was the main inspiration for the style of “The Blazing World.”
The surrealist horror piece follows Margaret (Young), a young woman haunted by the memories of her past. She witnessed the drowning of her twin sister during a volatile fight between her parents when she was only six years old. As the film progresses, the audience learns more about how this event in her life left a troubling mark on her. Margaret slowly loses herself to her inner turmoil and succumbs to thoughts of ending her own life.
Despite the dark nature of the premise, “The Blazing World” is a dynamic tale of healing. Margaret travels through a dreamlike alternate reality where she confronts her inner demons. Young previously expressed how this film was inspired by a dream she once had. There are also clear takeaways from films such as “Pan’s Labyrinth” and stories such as “Alice in Wonderland.” It is a seamless blend of horror and fantasy, brilliantly taking from those classic films Young is so fond of. It is without a doubt a visually beautiful movie.
Filmed during COVID-19, the visual style of the film showcases the nature of the times. The camera is angled at times to create the illusion of closeness between characters. It reminds the viewer of the circumstances they must have faced during filming. It also works to present the emotional state of the characters and their feelings toward each other. These characters share a familial trauma that Young tries to exorcise throughout the film.
In the end, “The Blazing World” is an exquisitely rich presentation of imaginative storytelling perfect for what the NEXT category stands for. It stands as an ambitious and impressive debut from Young.
Josie Meléndez is a Puerto Rican screenwriter and film critic. Named an emerging content creator by NALIP and an emerging journalist by TIFF, she is also the founder of the Film Posers podcast, a platform hosted by four Boricuas dedicated to analyzing film and television from their cultural perspective. Meléndez is also a member of the Hollywood Critics Association.