Touched with Fire: The Insanity Behind Art and Love

When you watch the trailer for Touched with Fire, it’s easy to feel lost. It presents parallel mental breakdowns of a young woman and man, who recite pieces of poetry as they frantically write, draw, and stir a sense of confusion and anxiety in those around them. The hollow beat in the background grows louder as the trailer cuts sporadically from one image to the next, creating a crescendo effect that absorbs you into the panic as well. Everything blends into a fast blur of voices and images—and then it all stops. Suddenly, the pace of the trailer slows, and we see the same woman and man in a mental hospital trying to negotiate their way out.

This sharp transition in the trailer is jarring, but this is the point—the film is supposed to make us uncomfortable. Touched with Fire tells the story of Emily (Katie Holmes) and Marco (Luke Kirby), two manic-depressive poets who fall in love. As the romance grows, doctors and family members try to separate the lovers, worried they will drive each other deeper into insanity. Their relationship is both beautiful and self-destructive, and the trailer even shows a scene where the two kiss passionately as they recklessly drive a car into the water. Although at times it may appear that the film tries too hard to be artsy, it’s an interesting take on the idea that “love is insanity.”

In one scene, Marco says, “There are crazy connections between bipolar and artistic genius.” Interestingly, the director of the film, Paul Dalio, is bipolar as well. Perhaps this explains why the movie trailer feels so intense, and why the film seems to transform mental illness into something beautiful. With the director taking such a risk both professionally and personally, nothing about this movie feels cliché—the performances are riveting and the storyline seems captivating. After the trailer, I feel prepared (and even excited) for the emotional extremes this movie will present.

Touched with Fire will be released in February 2016.