“We’re not from here, you and me,” Marco in Touched With Fire.
Touched With Fire felt like an extremely personal story told on screen, which makes sense knowing now that writer and director Paul Dalio based the film on his own struggles with bipolar disorder.
Dalio chose just the right pace in the film to bring together the separate stories of poets Carla (Katie Holmes) and Marco (Luke Kirby) by building to the point when they both are in a psychiatric hospital for treatment of bipolar disorder and manic episodes.
Carla and Marco have influences over each other that are good and bad as Dalio brings to life their illness as well as artistic talent and understanding of each other against all odds.
Stylistically, Dalio uses strong color themes and music (which he wrote) to further tell the story as Marco and Carla are both artists and believe their illness even contributes to that.
Marco’s love for art and studying artists is introduced early on, especially his study of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night painting known to be from his view of the sky out an asylum windown.
The visuals in the film and scenes with Marco and Carla — even down to the clothes they are wearing after they meet — are heavily saturated with blue and yellow to mirror Vincent van Gogh’s painting and the focus on art as an expression of self.
Dalio also uses psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison’s book, also titled Touched With Fire, as a backbone of his film through Marco’s reading of it while in the hospital and beyond. Redfield Jamison also suffers from bipolar disorder and has a role in the film.
Marco and Carla eventually move out of the hospital to live on their own, at which point the film loses a bit of its artistic style and transitions into realism with the use of darker tones and music.
That transition is not a fault of the film as overall it is a visually exceptional love story with performances by Holmes and Kirby that seem to perfectly match what Dalio wanted to portray about his own life.
I listened to an interview with Craig Ferguson on Nerdist last week and this quote seems fitting after seeing Touched With Fire.
“If one tries to practice self acceptance, treat yourself like you’re somebody that you like and live in the present. I do believe that (it’s not easy to do) … but really the meaning of life is to live each moment as it arrives and if you can do that you win whatever can be won.”