Embrace of the Serpent: DVD Review
Released by Madman Home Ent
Ciro Guerra's Embrace of The Serpent, shot lusciously in black and white, centres around two timelines and two explorers and a shaman as they make their way through the Amazonian jungle. The first sees the young Shaman Karmakate alone in the jungle, the last of his race approached by a European explorer and his local charge. Imploring them to help locate the mythical yakruna plant to cure the ailing explorer Karmakate agrees to go with them in their search.
So, deep into the jungle the trio goes, and at the same time Guerra employs a narrative trick that sees us flitting to later in Karmakate's life where he's searching for the plant with another traveller. To reveal more would be to spoil the film, but even that implies there's some major twists and plot shockers ahead - there's simply not, more that revealing deeper information about Guerra's film is to rob it of its richness which transpires on the screen.
Occasional humour pervades the piece and watching one of the Europeans plead with a tribe leader to return his compass flips normal reasoning on its head, a solid reminder that cultures and customs remain wiped clean by history.
Based on actual trips by ethnographers Theodor Koch-Grunberg and Richard Evans Schultes, the film serves as a document to the times, to tribes lost to history and stands as a testament to the brutality man wroughts under the umbrella of civilisation.
Rubber plantations scatter the Amazon; the scars within the trees remind us that civilisation cuts deep and also hints at the terror the natives must have felt under the rubber barons. Equally, the Christian centre the trio stumble on presents a religion that terrorises as its MO rather than helping propagate a world of love. Both show the outside world to be nothing more than a curse on the Amazon and you'd be hard-pressed to leave with thoughts to the contrary.
Beautifully and evocatively shot, Embrace of the Serpent is a haunting film, a reminder that the home viewing can serve up a treat under the most auspicious of disguises.