Director: George Ford
Cast: Fire, Wood
Watch Fireplace for Your Home online in the UK: Netflix UK
Warning: This review contains spoilers.
Ever since the dawn of human civilisation, man has dreamed of controlling fire. That deadly, ephemeral power, stolen by Prometheus and passed down through generations, has birthed and destroyed societies for centuries. But now, in 2013, man has found a way to trap that incinerating force within a digital container: in a Fireplace for Your Home.
The concept of having a fireplace in your home without having a fireplace in your home is, at first, as baffling as those flames must once have appeared to primitive man. But any Darwinian reflex is soon forgotten as director George Ford’s documentary series heats up.
Episode One of Season One begins boldly in media res, with a fire already lit. From whence did this inferno come? Who was the giver of the flame? That dramatic tension is left audaciously unresolved as Ford unveils his tale: the tragic story of wood being consumed by the oncoming blaze. The choice to portray this narrative from the perspective of the antagonist (the fire) is brave, challenging us to cheer on the roaring conflagration as its fiery dominion spreads – against our natural survival instincts.
Directly confronting the nemesis of our forefathers is an exhilarating experience, but that primeval thrill is almost extinguished by George Ford’s decision to present the story with a soundtrack. Two episodes in the season are musical versions; one of them accompanied by bland elevator tunes performed by a cheesy flute and piano, the other accompanied by bland festive songs performed by a cheesy flute and piano. Fortunately, there is a third hour-long episode on Netflix, which is only accompanied by the crackles and pops of the timber catching fire; an intense incendiary sensation.
The plot unfolds gradually and is easy to follow for people of all ages. An efficient introduction swiftly establishes the key characters and context, before ash starts to appear on the left of the screen, engulfing the log before snapping it and bursting into colours. A stubborn stick on the right of the hearth fights back for as long as possible – a conflict that drives up the excitement right until the orange-filled final act. When will the stick succumb to the scorching smoke? A surprising twist and some unexpected charring build up to a climax that pays off after the slow-burn pacing, before finally fading out into the cool darkness of our ancestors.
Throughout, the hissing and snapping only heightens the inevitability of combustion. It’s like G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, but with fire instead of Cobra. The courageous call from George to set everything within a single location (the fireplace) helps to keep the drama kindling but the visuals are the film’s biggest star; the oxidisation occurs in real-time, captured in one long, unbroken take, ranking Fireplace for Your Home alongside Gravity for both groundbreaking technology and heart-stopping suspense. Like Alfonso Cuaron, within the claustrophobic confines of this festive furnace, George Ford asks unexpected burning questions. What is fire? Where is fire? Why is fire? Who is fire? As you gaze into those pixellated pyrotechnics, the video rises in temperature from cool documentary to smouldering existential masterpiece; an awe-inspiring celebration of both the raw power of fire and, thousands of years after Prometheus stole the Gods’ red flower, mankind’s ability to control it.
In other words, it’s just like having a fireplace for your home. Yule love it.