Colombian director Ciro Guerra's Embrace of the Serpent is a legitimate stunner, a river-trip that will mesmerize and jack with you, leaving you not quite certain, at its end, how to go about the rest of your day.
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The languorous pacing - particularly in the middle section - may lessen the impact on audiences somewhat, and the two-hour runtime seems a little much, but this is important, harrowing and deeply heartfelt lament that deserves to be seen and most definitely heard.
While its strange rhythms may not be for everyone, it does provide something unusual in today’s movies: a truly original experience for the mind and the soul.
One just wishes it weren’t doing all the work for the viewer.
It's an absorbing, even thrilling head trip. It is a Heart-of-Darkness voyage of discovery. It is a lament for all the lost plants and peoples of the world.
If the film runs a tad too long, especially in its second half, Embrace of the Serpent is still an absorbing account of indigenous tribes facing up to colonial incursions, revealing how Westerners are in many ways far behind the native peoples they conquer.
The film would nonetheless benefit from occasional tightening, its digressions and longueurs occasionally moving beyond the lyrical and into the belabored. Nevertheless, as a vision of the past, “Embrace of the Serpent” offers a stately, striking panorama and an entirely persuasive one.
The movie is more about how outsiders – whether consciously or unconsciously – exert control. The repercussions of colonialism hover over the text even as these characters have “noble” intentions.
Ciro Guerra's excesses in arthouse symmetry tend to arrive in the service of a just and angry correctivism.
The going can be a bit slow at first, but the interweaving narratives, which comment on (and sometimes echo) each other, begin to develop a hypnotic grandeur. It’s a hell of a trip.