Cinema Review: Embrace of the Serpent | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, March 30th, 2020  

Embrace of the Serpent

Studio: Oscilloscope Laboratories
Directed by Ciro Guerra

Feb 18, 2016 Web Exclusive
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A cyclical tale of two white men visiting the same hermetic Amazonian native decades apart, Embrace the Serpent, fully embraces a snaking, nonlinear structure to highlight the Western World’s unchanging and naïve attitude toward indigenous cultures. The ailing German, Theo (Jan Bijvoet), is the first to arrive at the shoreline where Karamakate lives, seeking the sacred, hallucinogenic Yakruna plant to heal him of his ailments. Karamakete begrudgingly agrees to take him and his assistant on a journey through the jungle to find it – a journey he will repeat thirty years later when the American botanist Evan (Brionne Davis), inspired by Theo’s posthumous writings, also turns up looking for the Yakruna. As evidenced by several encounters with the various effects of colonialism on the Amazon, both men, although claiming to study the indigenous people and plants, are unable to disentangle their inherently Western world-view enough to see Karamakate’s own struggle and point of view.

Watching the film is a challenge. Embedded in lush rainforest scenery, the narrative unfold slowly, without urgency and is often overly intellectual, Embrace of the Serpent raises provocative questions about the depiction of native cultures onscreen and in Anthropological texts. But it’s Antonio Bolívar Salvador’s magnetism as the steadfast and unflappable elderly Karamakate who, despite being resolutely stoic, provides the film with its much-needed emotional core.

Author rating: 7/10

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