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The Burning – Out Friday – A Look Outside: The Wilderness in the Movies

17 June 2015

In Pablo Fendrik’s thriller, The Burning, the Parana jungle lives and breathes as much as the characters themselves. Oppressive and suffocating, the unbridled wildness of the Burning’s surroundings carries a certain sense humanity that is as intoxicating as it is discomfiting. In fact, the film is like a flame itself, simmering and blistering, as every corner of Burning is lit with the fiery hues of amber and gold: the sweaty sheen of human skin, the golden eyes of the jaguar, the sinking sun just on the horizon...The jungle is yet another force that Kai, Vania, and their companion must reckon with in order to ensure their survival.

Human threat is perhaps the easiest of the beasts to wrangle – after all, most of us fall prey to the weaknesses of our nature. In The Burning, for example, our protagonists manage to survive by simply out-foxing their foes and firing a gun. But what of the jungle that smothers them in its sweaty blanket? What of the creatures that stalk silently through the trees, merciless when it comes to the capture of their next meal? It is the world around us – unpredictable and uncontrollable – that can never truly be conquered. As we see in The Burning, man may live comfortably amongst the wild, but he will forever be at the mercy of its fickle whims. There is an enduring sense of “otherness” that stems from the truth that man simply does not belong. The wilderness is the true and ever-present higher power.

Throughout film history, writers and directors have portrayed this timeless battle between human beings and their external surroundings in a variety of ways. Through these films, we come to see that the threat of the wilderness lies not only in places like The Burning’s Parana jungle – but in disease, natural disaster, the subconscious, etc.

Take a look below to see five other films that contain this common theme. Each one depicts the travails of man’s need for self-preservation in a world that wants to swallow him whole...



The Road (2009) – Based on Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Road paints the grim picture of a dystopian America on the verge of collapse. Awash in hues of grey and white, the film’s pervasive bleakness is similar to the suffocating heat of The Burning.

The story centres on a father- son duo who navigate their increasingly violent landscape to reach the sea. Danger lurks around every corner as the weaker-minded surrender to barbarism and savagery, ravaging the land much like the beasts that they hunt. With only a vague destination in mind, the two protagonists fight to stay together and survive – all the while clinging to a waning belief in the goodness of humanity.



Wild (2014) – In Wild, writer Cheryl Strayed embarks upon a 94-day journey along the Pacific Crest Trail for the sake of self-discovery. Throughout her experience, she encounters a cast of characters, both beast and animal, that inspires an examination of her troubled past. In turns exhausted, thirsty, and injured, Cheryl gradually learns what it means to live amongst the rugged and wild world around her – and how healing can be found within its crags and valleys. Like Kai in The Burning, Cheryl is able to recognize the danger and purity within the isolation of the wilderness.



Inception (2010) – One of the most original works in recent cinema, Inception follows Dom Cobb and his band of dream-invaders as they worm their way into the subconscious of a future business mogul. While playing their twisted game of mind-thievery, the team travels through a limitless world full of gravity-defying hotel corridors, blizzards, and crumbling cities. Apart from the perils imposed by their out-of-this-world surroundings, Dom’s tortured subconscious – personified by his dead wife – repeatedly sabotages the entire enterprise. Though likely not a film that comes to mind when one thinks of “Man vs. Wild”, Inception is a perfect example of how the untameable wilderness exists not only outside of us but within us as well.



Children of Men (2006) – In Children of Men, the “wild” takes shape in the form of an inexplicable pandemic. For nearly two decades, the world has seen itself age, transform, and decay – though no children have been born due to a mysterious plague of infertility. Amidst increasing tensions and a contagious sense of desperation, Theo Faron stumbles across a woman who has, against all odds, become pregnant. With the aid of several revolutionaries, Theo must keep the woman safe and deliver her to a top-secret organisation “The Human Project”. He must fight through the bleakness of his dying world while also keeping his sights transfixed on the possibility of salvation.



Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – Mad Max: Fury Road takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where water is scarce and land stretches ever-outwards into a barren wasteland. Following the collapse of civilisation, survivors are imprisoned in a desert camp and subjected to the mistreatment of a tyrannical leader. One woman, Furiosa, manages to free the villain’s five wives and, in partnership with Mad Max, they flee from captivity in an armoured truck. What ensues is a thrilling chase through the endless Wasteland that is often waylaid by the perils of their merciless environment. Dust storms, heat, and an unquenchable thirst are as viable of enemies as the fugitives’ cruel pursuant and captor. Much like Kai and Vania in The Burning, every character is coated in a layer of dirt and grime, as though the desert has even laid claim to their very bodies.



The Burning (2015) – Set in the treacherous world of the Parana jungle, The Burning is a sweaty action-thriller that follows a trio of locals’ struggle to prevent the exploitation of their lands. While trying to evade the clutches of greedy mercenaries (meeting both success and failure in this venture), our three heroes must also grapple with the more natural perils concealed within the shadows of their surroundings. On several occasions are the torn and pulpy corpses of the jungle’s victims shown in all their gruesome, bloody glory – proving that even the more modernised powers of civilisation fall prey to the savagery of the wild.

The Burning Film Page


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