Directed by Conor Allyn, In the Fire, takes us to the 1890s, when the science of mind was not widely accepted. The film revolves around Doctor Grace Burnham, an alienist (psychiatrist) who travels to a far-off plantation to meet her subject—a little boy named Martin Marquez. Grace had been in contact with Martin’s mother, Isabella, and was convinced that the boy was suffering from a mental disorder and was not the work of the devil, as the locals believed. On her way to the Marquez villa, Grace noticed the rotten crops and deserted fields. There was something eerie about the place, but Grace was not ready to give way to unscientific explanations. With a predictable plot, average performances, and a few unacceptable errors, In the Fire does not leave a mark.
Why did the villagers blame Martin for their ill fortune?
Grace was shocked to find out about Isabella’s death after she reached the plantation. Martin’s father, Don Nicolas, was heartbroken and did not believe that his son could be cured. He was dismissive of Grace when she introduced herself. Father Antonio convinced Nicolas to allow the doctor to take a look at his son, at least until the arrival of the next train. When Grace met Martin, she realized that he blamed himself for his mother’s death. Martin was close to his mother, and she was with him when he was riding the horse. Isabella asked him to stop, but he was so immersed in the experience that he did not pay heed to her instructions. His mother tried to stop him and, in the process, fatally injured herself. From then on, people believed that it was Martin who killed his mother. The guilt that the little boy suffered from was unimaginable, and Grace knew she was his only hope.
Father Gavira headed the village church, and he was convinced that Martin was the devil reincarnated. He claimed to have received a message from Jesus warning him of Martin. From the locust attacks to the plague, Martin was blamed for every misfortune. The village started to fall apart when the boy was born, and Grace understood that it was almost impossible to convince the villagers otherwise. They were all the more unforgiving when two children died after they accepted food from Martin. Grace could not explain what went down, but she was confident that there was a logical explanation for the death, and Martin had nothing to do with it. The villagers, led by Gavira, tortured Grace and Father Antonio, who had started to believe in Grace’s method. Don Nicolas did everything in his power to protect his family, but the situation got more volatile with each passing day. Grace believed Martin needed to relocate for his well-being. Grace’s presence helped mend the father-son relationship. Nicolas tried to understand his son better, and Martin helped his father in his day-to-day activities.
What changed Grace’s assumption of the situation?
A fire was started at Nicolas’ stable on the instructions of the church. When Nicolas entered to put out the fire, the vengeful father of the recently deceased children attacked him with a shovel. Grace attempted to save Nicolas, but the man did not spare her as well. After hearing the chaos and cries, Martin entered the stable, but a toy caught his attention. The man was about to strike when Martin looked into his eyes. All of a sudden, a burning log landed on the man, and he was set ablaze. Grace witnessed the entire incident, and she did not have a scientific explanation for it. Martin was not an ordinary human being, and Grace started to doubt herself. But it was Father Antonio who helped Grace feel confident about her objective once again. He believed it was only she who could help them and guide them to overcome the darkness. Grace once again got back to the work she had come to the plantation for—to help Martin. She reassured Martin that he was not the reason behind everyone’s suffering. After a session with Martin, Grace realized how afraid he was from within, especially after he lost the only person who made him feel safe. Isabella was Martin’s support system, and with her death, he felt all the more vulnerable. He had convinced himself to believe that he would bring death and that he was the reason why the people around him were unsafe.
Soon, typhus started to spread across the village, and once again, it was Martin who was blamed. The villagers sought guidance from Father Gavira, and he believed it was time to kill the devil. The Marquez’ prepared to leave the village, but it was too late.
Was Martin a case of savant syndrome, or was he a supernatural being?
The villagers, led by Father Gavira, arrived at the Marquez plantation for blood. With torches and arms, the villagers turned into savages to execute the boy. Grace stayed with Martin in his room, and even though she tried to distract him by asking him to play the violin, it did not help. Grace watched the frantic crowd topple the main gate. It was time to run for their lives, and Grace took it upon herself to protect Martin. Father Antonio helped them escape through the cold cellar, and he decided to face the raging villagers. He tried to instill sense in them, but it was too late. Father Gavira stabbed him to death and ordered his followers to find the boy.
At the end of In the Fire, Grace and Martin are caught by the villagers as they try to escape. Grace was held captive, while Martin was seated on the ground as Gavira prepared to execute him. In his last attempt to protect his son, Nicolas entered riding his horse. He was wounded and barely had any strength left, but he could not bear to watch his son face the wrath of the public. The villagers attacked Nicolas, and that triggered Martin. He had been calmly waiting for his execution, but he could not watch his father suffer. During the ending of In the Fire, Nicolas exhibits telekinetic power as he takes control of the men and pushes them away by gesture. All this while Grace was in conflict, but what she witnessed explained that Martin was truly blessed, and she could not explain his actions. When Father Gavira pointed his gun at Martin, the little boy killed him with his own weapon. The villagers were frightened, and they ran for their lives.
Martin was partly aware of the powers he possessed, but he always hid them away, fearing the worst. He was not responsible for all the ill occurrences in the village, but because he was treated differently and his family was harmed, there was a part of him that hated the village and its people. Perhaps a more accepting environment could have been rewarding for him. The way Martin focused all his strength on saving his father proved that he did not lack empathy; he cared about the people who loved him. Martin could have destroyed the village if he wished, but it was only after he saw his father being attacked that he reacted. To say that Martin was the devil reincarnated was wrong. He was a talented kid with inexplainable powers, and he needed love and understanding to navigate the world. Clearly, there was a lot more for Grace to learn about Martin, but because of her lack of prejudice against him, we can expect the journey to be smooth.
During In the Fire‘s ending, after the villagers leave, Martin, Nicolas, and Grace arrive at the train station. Nicolas wanted Grace to take his son away and forget all that she had witnessed. He knew that his son was different, but he also believed that Martin deserved a better life. Grace promised to look after Martin, and eventually, Nicolas succumbed to death. Grace and Martin boarded the train and thus began their journey together away from the prying eyes of the villagers and into an uncertain future. As a psychiatrist, we also only assume that Grace will have to rethink all the theories that she has learned about. Finding a bridge between science and the supernatural would become her task. In the Fire does not demonize Martin, and it ends on a hopeful note.