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[Sundance ’21] ‘The Blazing World’ review: A vivid and promising debut

Imaginative debut.

The Blazing World has an interesting pedigree. The Sundance Film Festival premiere directed by and starring Carlsong Young from MTV’s Scream television series, was “inspired by Margaret Cavendish and other dreams”. The film lives up to this statement in a series of stylish dreamlike sequences that blur the line between reality and fantasy.

Young plays Margaret who saw her sister drown after a fight between her parents. Understandably, she has been haunted  by the memory ever since. Now a young woman, she has fallen deeper down the rabbit hole. Margaret’s parents seem to be constantly fighting. These are not confined to snide remarks and tiny arguments. They are violent battles that can be heard from far away.

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These moments are jarring. The parents cannot stand to be around each other and the emotional toll is visible on everybody. Early on, they are also the only part of The Blazing World that is shown without the added artistic whistles and bells. There are no jump cuts or loud music. The film allows these arguments to fester out in the open.

[Sundance '21] 'The Blazing World' review: A vivid and promising debut

It is an interesting choice. On the one hand, The Blazing World may be using the undiluted arguments to explain why everything in Margaret’s life is so intense and disorienting. The only reality she knows is her parents’ dysfunction. On the other hand, this leads to a series of distracting scenes that scream style over substance. It is not long before Margaret’s parents become an afterthought.

This is where The Blaze World will lose many. It is a visually stunning film that alternates between horror and fantasy. It is reminiscent of – and pays homage to – Guillermo del Toro. Unfortunately, the story is not as strong. The film lacks the tension and emotion it should. Margaret’s search for her sister takes a backseat to the admittedly impressive visuals. Young is consistently great in front of and behind the camera, but it is hard to shake the feeling this is more show than tell. 

Continue to check out AIPT for our ongoing coverage of the Sundance Film Festival. Tickets and a full lineup can be found here.

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