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Embrace of the Serpent

This is one of the most interesting, beautiful and evocative films I’ve seen in a long time. A genuinely different cinematic take on the jungle, a welcome and gruelling exposure of the horrors behind the Amazon rubber boom, a skilful blend of indigenous myth and contemporary history, and a hair-raising fusion of stark monochrome photography and patient aesthetic reveries that manages to be deeply psychedelic without relying on the usual psychedelic filmic tropes.

Based on the travel journals of ethnologist Theodor Koch-Grünberg and ethnobotanical pioneer Richard Evans Schultes, the tale reverses the usual Heart of Darkness perspective, grounding the narrative in the story of an indigenous shaman. Mark Kermode discusses this in a review which I can only agree with wholeheartedly.

The film is currently on release in the UK, and if you can possibly see it at the cinema, you must. If you can’t, it’s also available to stream online. Check out the website.