Take a moment and think about the sort of film you traditionally watch once a year, around Christmas. It’s a Wonderful Life? A little heavy on the dialogue. Love Actually? Too many actors. Die Hard? Would’ve been nice if they’d shot it all in one take. The crux of the matter is this: No supposed holiday classic holds a candle to the flaming genius of Fireplace for Your Home, a groundbreaking miniseries available to stream on Netflix.
“Despite what some other critics have said, this series is NOT a Hollywood Remake,” the top review notes, but we would venture to call it an homage—a loving tribute to the original cozy yuletide fireplace. Break out the cookies and eggnog and settle in for a night of high drama and edge-of-your-seat suspense as the miracle of combustion unfolds before your disbelieving eyes.
Episode one introduces us to a few logs burning in a small stone fireplace as instrumentals of public domain Christmas carols play. It’s an intriguing juxtaposition: just where are these songs coming from, and what could they mean? As the fire grows, so does the tension. I won’t spoil what happens, but let’s just say that there’s a lot less stoking than you might expect, and not every character makes it out in one piece. See if you can spot the cameos of a few embers, too.
The second installment, “Crackling Fireplace,” is the most challenging and experimental arc of the series, a 21st-century answer to the minimalist films of Andy Warhol. Gone are the familiar strains of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” with all focus placed squarely on the transfixing, protean flame and its urgent, sporadic popping. As with many ambitiously immersive programs, I had some trouble following what was said, but with a little help from the subtitles, I got by.
Finally, the masterstroke. Act 3, “Crackling Fireplace With Music,” proves to be an enchanting marriage of concepts explored in the first two hours of the piece, yet formally innovative enough to reveal more surprises amid the familiar blaze. The music has returned—albeit in non-denominational form—shifting from plaintive piano to gentle guitar and sensuous strings. It’s here that key details finally move to the fore: the sooty walls, the sturdy metal grill, elements without which none of this thermodynamic magic would be possible.
Don’t expect Fireplace for Your Home to come away with any awards, though. It may be a prestige picture, but its refusal to score political points or vacuously praise the entertainment industry make it a tough sell to the establishment. Perhaps that’s as it should be—a quiet, intelligent piece destined to become a cult classic, something discovered by word of mouth and passed between the few fans who truly “get it.” Oh, and for those who do, the making-of documentary is required viewing (as is the Lil Bub–starring spinoff). See you around the hearth!
Photo by Todd Freeman/Flickr