★★★★★ - Stuff
Every year, the Mexican municipality of Tultepec celebrates the local fireworks industry by absolutely blowing the living hell out of the town square, surrounding streets and several members of its population.
Film-maker Viktor Jakovleski and the rest of the Court 13 collective (the team responsible for Beasts of the Southern Wild, very possibly my favourite film of the last 10 years) filmed the festival over three seasons, and then edited together what was presumably hundreds of hours of footage into this lean and gorgeous 67-minute micro-epic.
Florian Habicht came up with the lovely phrase "a performed documentary" a few years back to categorise one of his own films, and I think we could describe Brimstone and Glory as another example of the genre.
With no narration to tell us what to think, the story we take from Brimstone and Glory is for us to discern. There are no talking heads here, no real context or history is given. We are invited to watch and listen as giddy tourists at this pyrotechnic rapture, not to understand, only to be present.
Maybe you will see Brimstone as a thesis on the economies of single-industry towns, or find in it a near-companion to Beasts' child's eye view of the adult world. Or read it as a primer on the places where euphoria and danger meet: Few of the older men in the film still have the full compliment of fingers they entered this world with. Brief scenes of ambulance and fire crews being told of what to expect on their shifts are sobering and near-macabre. Or possibly, you'll just love it for the absolutely hypnotic soundtrack.
All of that is in Brimstone and Glory. But I took something else from it.
This is a dizzying, beautiful, awe-inspiring and deeply wonderful film. It has the power to turn grown adults into grinning, whooping kids. Brimstone and Glory is a simple film and yet also a magisterial one. I simply cannot recommend it highly enough.