Uniquely Deliberate: Our Review of ‘Embrace of the Serpent’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - February 19, 2016
Uniquely Deliberate: Our Review of ‘Embrace of the Serpent’

Taking that trip into the unknown can be a truly jarring experience in ways that we can’t even fathom.

Drawing on true stories, Embrace of the Serpent is a lush monochromatic wash of the emotion that truly comes out in the human spirit when staring face first in the heart of a leaving beast like the Amazon jungle.

Essentially this is the story of Karamakate; an Amazonian shaman and the last survivor of his people and how he co-exists with two scientists over a forty year period as they traveled through the jungle in search of the sacred and very rare Yakurna plant.  Their friendship is tested at every turn in the dark corners of the Colombian Amazon and is inspired by real-life journals of two explorers Theodor Koch-Grünberg and Richard Evans Schultes as they witness their impact on this unexplored land first hand.

A harsh and hypnotic look at the impact of ‘influence’ and ‘control’ of outsiders going into a land thinking that they know ‘better’ then the people living there, which makes Embrace of the Serpent a kind of statement on the impact of colonialism that you won’t soon forget.  While I’ll be the first to admit that it gets a little out there with some questionable pacing, you’ll know you’ve just watched something pretty damn unique.


Writer/Director Ciro Guerra immediately sets out to challenge his audience as this movie won’t be one that is for everyone but even when you aren’t entirely sure about what is going on you will find yourself absorbing the meticulous detail and craft of his visuals.  The jungle is a character unto itself and he makes sure that the damn thing comes alive as his choice of black and white plays out as an incredibly vibrant choice.  Granted he gets a little lost in all from time to time, but it’s an ambitious cinematic experience as it gets us to the clear cut message of it all and how even the developed world is pretty backwards sometimes.  It could have done with a little trimming, especially when it drifts a bit in the middle and gets a little too esoteric at times, but it ultimately gets the job done.

With its mix of professional and amateur performers, it is hard to get a genuine angle on the quality of the performances but we are always engaged from minute to end and veteran actor Jan Bijvoet who some audiences will recognize from movies like Borgman & The Broken Circle Breakdown manages to anchor it all as one of the wayward scientists Theo who can’t help but impact this beautiful land that he is exploring.

Far from a perfect film, Embrace of the Serpent manages to succeed well enough as it paints us a unique picture of life that most of us will never experience.  It won’t win over everyone but it’s a hell of a trip for those open to the experience.

  • Release Date: 2/19/2016
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David Voigt, has been a lover of cinema all his life and an actual underpaid critic for a solid 5 years covering everything that the city of Toronto has to offer. He was a content manager in video distribution industry before that and his love of all things cinema goes back to his first moments in awe looking up at the big screen. His 12 years of experience on the home entertainment side of the business have provided him with a unique view on what is worth spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on. Combine that with his unquestioned love of film, David should be your only stop to find out about the best in film, not only in Toronto, but worldwide.