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  • Fiona Prior

Embrace of the Serpent

Embrace of the Serpent

Directed by: Ciro Guerra

Written by: Ciro Guerra, Jacques Toulemonde

'Embrace of the Serpent' is one of those old fashioned movies made for people with attention spans. Shot is black and white, this Columbian film is a glorious anthropological adventure story set in the Amazon region.

The pace of the film keeps time with canoe paddles pushing through the waters of the Amazon as we follow the lives of two adventurers taking a journey, their journeys separated by thirty years but accompanied by the one Shaman. This is a film where the outcome of wrong-doings of one life-time can be seen in another but also a film where the protagonists are able to address their lapses of the past, realising experientially that their historic actions have had detrimental consequences.

The first of writer and director Guerra’s narratives is set in 1909 and follows Theodor (Jan Bijvoet), a German explorer who is being guided up the Amazon River by a mysterious Shaman (Nilbio Torres) to find a plant to cure his wasting sickness. The plant, the sacred ‘ yakruna’ flower, is in the care of the remaining members of our Shaman’s lost tribe, a community the Shaman had believed to be long gone.

The second storyline takes place almost three decades later in 1930. Evans (Brionne Davis) has read the published works of the explorer Theodor and is following in his footsteps. He has tracked down our aging Shaman (now played by Antonio Bolívar Salvador) and convinced him to travel up river in search of the same plant.

Watch out for a wonderful twisted reference to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in the form of a second, thirty years later visit to a Christian orphanage in the jungle where the now grown inhabitants are profoundly and violently deluded as a consequence of one of those ‘sins of their fathers’ incidents previously mentioned. Likewise, be open to a little green metaphysics as the lessons of this mystical and fertile region embodied by the rare yakuna plant, bring both Shaman and travellers together into enlightenment.

Highly recommended.

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