The House Is Burning

A young American goes off to war, but not before spending one last day with his boozing, smoking and unfailingly obnoxious friends. Overwrought screamfest from German scribe-director Holger Ernst should burn down quickly, with DVD shelves on hand to sweep up the ashes.

With:
With: Harley Adams, John Diehl, Erik Jensen, Melissa Leo, Julianne Michelle, Joe Petrilla, Robin Taylor, Nicole Vicius.

A young American goes off to war, but not before spending one last day with his boozing, smoking and unfailingly obnoxious friends in “The House Is Burning.” Overwrought screamfest from German scribe-director Holger Ernst thrusts the camera into every crack and crevice of its characters’ flailing misery, although the sexual turmoil, substance abuse and physical violence shown are too generic to reward prolonged scrutiny. The curious involvement of exec producer Wim Wenders will stir some interest, but otherwise, “House” should burn down quickly, with DVD shelves on hand to sweep up the ashes.

In brief: Small-town boy Mike (Joe Petrilla) signs up for army duty, sending his girlfriend Valerie (Nicole Vicius) into the arms of his best friend Phil (Robin Taylor), who supplies a gun to gawky youth Steve (Harley Ad-ams) so he can kill his abusive deadbeat dad (John Diehl). Julianne Michelle surfaces as a sympathetic junkie, while Melissa Leo classes up the joint (so to speak) as Mike’s weed-smoking mother. Though the actors stomp and rage, swear and screw with impressive conviction, the implied message about the war in Iraq versus the war at home never quite coalesces.

The House Is Burning

Production: A Reverse Angle Pictures presentation of a Reverse Angle Intl. production in cooperation with Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and German Federal Filmboard. (International sales, Reverse Angle Intl., Berlin.) Produced by Peter Schwartzkopff, Alex Gibeny, Katja Siegel. Executive producer, Wim Wenders. Directed, written by Holger Ernst.

Crew: Camera (color), Stefan Grandinetti; editor, Silke Botsch; music, Markus Glunz; production designer, Amanda Ford; costume designer, Ford; sound (Dolby Digital), Tammy M. Douglas; line producer, Kendall McCarthy; assistant director, Chris Carroll; casting, Caroline Sinclair. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (non-competing), May 26, 2006. Running time: 97 MIN.

With: With: Harley Adams, John Diehl, Erik Jensen, Melissa Leo, Julianne Michelle, Joe Petrilla, Robin Taylor, Nicole Vicius.

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