The Blazing World
by Hope Madden
Creepy twin stuff, Udo Kier, alternate realities—yes, The Blazing World. I am in.
Co-writer/director/star Carlson Young takes us on a strange journey as Margaret Winter, haunted twin who lost her sister ten years ago. Struggling to get by, she relents and visits her needy mother (Vinessa Shaw) and difficult father (Dermot Mulroney), who are packing up Margaret’s childhood home for sale.
And that is the last normal thing that happens.
Working with cinematographer Shane F. Kelly (Boyhood), Carlson conjures a beautifully melancholic world, one that almost seems like our world but only if you squint. The colors and music suggest a vibrant but eerie dreamscape, the ideal spot for Margaret to lose herself – and maybe find her sister.
The title suggests Margaret Cavendish’s 17th Century feminist utopia, but Young’s script (co-written with Pierce Brown) takes only the loosest inspiration. Rather than the tale of a woman learning to lead in another realm, this The Blazing World reimagines one life’s greatest traumas as fantastical games to be overcome.
Carlson herself does a solid job of shouldering heroine duties, and she surrounds herself with talent. While Shaw and Mulroney deliver wild and eerie performances, it is Udo Kier you’ll remember best. Of course it is! As gamesman, devil and guide, he charms in his wearily creepy way.
Young’s writing can’t quite keep up with her knack for casting, though. While several scenes in and of themselves stand out spectacularly, and the weaving together of the various images creates a strange and intoxicating flavor, the underlying story is just too slight and the metaphors somewhat tortured.