Norwegian teenager Dag is a bit of a loner. He keeps himself to himself and helps his dad at work whenever he can. He’s also a firestarter, a twisted firestarter.
Shunned by kids his own age and desperately shy, Dag fills his time working alongside his father, the chief of the local fire department. In a way Dag is just creating a self-sustaining business model. Start a fire in an abandoned house and he gets to help put it out. No one gets hurt, and Dag can play the hero. Sadly, it’s the only area of his life over which he has any control.
Gösta Reiland’s cinematography exploits the visual potential of fire to its fullest, with tendrils of flame licking their way across every corner of the screen. The fire looks so beautiful you start to see the appeal for Dag, but beyond that the story is too flimsy to convince.
There is little reason for Dag to start fires aside from his loneliness, which is about as pathetic as excuses get. Most of the film plods along like a dreary procedural with Dag starting fires, then putting them out, with little development in between.
Trond Nilssen is decent as Dag, but neither he nor scriptwriter Bjørn Olaf Johannessen can lend much depth to such a one-dimensional obsession. Erik Skjoldbjærg’s confident direction is another highlight, but he doesn’t have much to work with. He shoots intelligently, bringing some sly visual flourishes that increase the tension, but there’s only so much he can do.
Pyromaniac’s synopsis promises spectacular visuals and a portrait of a troubled young man. It delivers on that, but only in the most perfunctory way. There are glimpses of promise, but they burn out just as quickly as they ignite.
CAST: Trond Nilssen, Per Frisch, Agnes Kittelsen, Liv Bernhoft Osa, Henrik Rafaelsen
DIRECTOR: Erik Skjoldbjærg
WRITER: Bjørn Olaf Johannessen
SYNOPSIS: A ruthless pyromaniac is on the loose in a rural village in Norway. What the locals don’t realise is that he’s no stranger, but one of them: the son of the fire brigade chief, spreading fear in secret.