‘Blessed by Fire’


Tristán Bauer’s new war movie has an even more bitterly ironic title in Spanish: Iluminados por El Fuego or Enlightened by Fire. Its main characters are, of course, not enlightened but permanently darkened and damaged by the short and doomed Falklands War. When we meet Esteban, he is keeping bedside watch over his long-lost war buddy Vargas, who has attempted suicide after years of depression. In a series of flashbacks, Esteban relives key moments of the Argentinean offensive against the British, which lasted for all of three months and ended in humiliating defeat. Esteban and Vargas, ripped from their comfortable homes to fight for something they don’t understand, are young, cold, and savagely unhappy. At one point, their hunger forces them to tackle a passing sheep, hack it up, and gnaw on its half-raw flesh. The parallel between that sheep and the soldiers is clear: They too are being led to the slaughter, sacrificed in the name of political bravado. “To whom were we heroes?” asks Esteban after the surrender, and the unspoken answer echoes in our heads: “To no one.”