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While vacationing by the Baltic Sea, writer Leon (Thomas Schubert) and photographer Felix (Langston Uibel) are surprised to encounter Nadja (Paula Beer), a mysterious young woman staying as a guest at the holiday home of Felix’s family. Nadja soon distracts Leon from finishing his latest novel, not only because of her passionate liaison with lifeguard Devid (Enno Trebs) but also because her brutal honesty forces Leon to confront his artistic inadequacies. As Nadja and Leon grow closer, an encroaching forest fire threatens the group and pushes the writer to discover whether he can truly care for anything beyond himself. Christian Petzold’s acclaimed latest film was the winner of the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the 2023 Berlin International Film Festival.

Picture 8/10

Through their Janus Contemporaries line, Criterion presents Christian Petzold’s Afire, presented on a dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode.

The movie was shot digitally using an Arri Alexa Mini, so the end presentation will come down to the quality of the source images and the disc’s encoding. While it's not perfect, I’m still happy to report it looks very good. Motion is smooth and clean without any judder, detail levels are high, and the image remains crisp throughout. The colors look great, and I was pretty impressed by the black levels and shadows, even during the day-for-night shots. There can be some mild banding in a few sequences, though it’s hard to say if it's related to the encode or is something baked into the original photography.

There can be some macroblocking, noticeable in the sky on occasion, and in that case, that has more to do with the encoding. Outside of that, no other artifacts pop up. As it is, it's a perfectly fine video presentation.

Audio 9/10

The film consists primarily of four characters grouped at a vacation home in the middle of the woods, cut off from everywhere else, with only a few other characters entering and leaving throughout. As such, I wouldn’t have expected much from the DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround presentation, but the track manages to pack in a few surprises.

The film is dialogue-heavy, which shouldn’t be a surprise, but it’s mixed appropriately between the front speakers and sounds sharp and clean with superb range. What was surprising was how well the surround mix directs audio through the speakers to throw the viewer into the middle of the environment, whether through music echoing through the house or from a fire that is slowly closing in on our protagonists. There are also planes and helicopters (that we rarely see) flying overhead, and the surrounds do a fantastic job handling that. For what the film is, the surround mix is surprisingly aggressive at times.

Extras 2/10

With the Janus Contemporaries line essentially being a no-frills kinda label, it should go without saying supplements are scant. Outside the film’s trailer, the only other supplement is an interview with director Christian Petzold, recorded for The Criterion Channel. In it, he talks a bit about how he got into filmmaking before talking about how the idea of the film came about, and it ended up being no shock to learn—considering the sense of isolation in it—that he started developing a version of it during the COVID lockdowns. At the very least, we also get an insert featuring a two-page essay about the film by Michael Joshua Rowin, examining the film’s main protagonist and the other characters.

Only a little, but the material is at least good.


It is no surprise that supplements are minimal, but at the very least, the digital presentation looks excellent.


Directed by: Christian Petzold
Year: 2023
Time: 102 min.
Series: Janus Contemporaries
Licensor: The Match Factory
Release Date: February 20 2024
MSRP: $29.95
1 Disc | BD-50
1.85:1 ratio
German 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
Subtitles: English
Region A
 Meet the Filmmakers, a new interview with director Christian Petzold   Trailer