Embrace of the Serpent was one of the nominees for this year’s foreign language Oscar and, as with opening night film Mustang, it’s easy to see why. An epic trek through the Amazonian forests of Colombia, it follows the exploits of two Western ethnographers, German Theodor Koch-Grunberg and American Richard Evans Schultes, over two separate time periods as they each encounter lone shaman Karamakate (the last survivor of his tribe) and other elusive natives deep in the jungle.
It’s shot entirely in black and white, which gives the film a dream-like, soulful and strangely isolated feeling throughout – but don’t let yourself think that takes anything away from the visuals. This movie is simply beautiful. It will take your breath away from beginning to end.
The German and American mentioned above were actual people who made this journey in real life; the film loosely based on their journal entries from that time. Journals and diaries are in some cases the only record we have of the natives portrayed in Embrace, and in that sense the experience feels all the more extraordinary. It prompts us, in honest and truthful fashion, to consider the morality of the ‘white man’ and how our actions, or one might say our ‘nature’, have affected the simpler ways of life seen here.
I already consider this one of the year’s unmissable films; it has won numerous awards at festivals worldwide since first being released in Colombia last May. Director Ciro Guerra is building an impressive back catalogue, this being his third consecutive film to have been put forward as Colombia’s selection for the foreign language Oscar, though it’s the first to be nominated outright. Essential viewing.
10 / 10