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Notes for a Film Review

by Alex Dally MacFarlane

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I’ve heard so many comments about The Glass Flames in past months, all opinion without substance: “so strange, so sexy, you must see it.” But my curiosity eventually sent me to the marketplaces where homemade films are sold on DVDs with purple backs.

The opening scene is of a prostitute lying on her back, wearing only jewellery. The camera is from the viewpoint of the person having sex with her, who must be crouching. This continues long enough for me to notice small, red and orange pieces of glass tied into her black hair. The glass flames of the title? And there is a word tangled in jewels around her throat.

After she has come, the scene changes: a drabby block of flats with the title painted on the side. ‘this is a true story’ appears in small letters under the title. (I love fake true stories.)

More instances of the word. I still can’t read it.

The story unfolds: a break-up, a mutual turn to prostitutes, except it’s always the same one. When the girl visits her, they use a two-way glass dildo with small, smooth-tipped flames sculpted up its sides.

Why this repetition of images? A pretence at heat? Hot and fragile at once?

Halfway through the film, I’m thinking that the quality of the film-work speaks of webcams and cameras fastened to necklaces: low quality visuals, shaky camera movements, poor focus. And the dialogue ranges from brilliant to the banality of everyday life.

“I like fire,” she says during one sex scene, and it must be a trick of light but it looks like there’s a brief flame in her hair.

No wonder so many people watch this film: it’s half sex.

Near the ending. She’s masturbating to a camera (on a shelf?). Someone bangs on the door, over and over, shouts in a foreign language. She looks frightened.

She takes the glass flames from her hair and arranges them in a circle around her bed. They turn into fire. (This bit can’t be real.)

“My name is,” she whispers to the camera, and the repeated word comes into focus when spoken: a strange mess of sounds, ‘cz’ and ‘kh’ and ‘fl’, and I can’t say it properly.

She smiles as the flames burn brighter, higher, consuming her bed. Shouts, “I’m running away!”

The final scene: a fireman enters the room and finds no body, only the glass flames and a glass woman-shape, completely hollow.

During the credits, there are photographs: the flames on sale in a charity shop, the hollow woman-shape on display in a gallery, an orange-winged bird perched on a wall. (The bird, like the glass turned to flame, is a marvellous piece of visual fakery, made to seem more real by the lack of CGI/illusion elsewhere in the film.)

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