15 November 2001 | Kakueke
The atmosphere in this movie is like nothing I have ever seen. Absolutely bizarre, beautiful, and brilliant. The plot and acting are not important. Instead, they merely provide a stepping stone for Lucio Fulci's beyond-superb cinematography.
OK, the "atmosphere's plot" revolves around the pursuit of the sorceress villainess Ocron (Sabrina Siani) by an archer, Ilias (Andrea Occhipinti), and Mace (Jorge Rivero), a sidekick picked up along the way. Sabrina is more of a form figure than a person, and has a fluid gold mask. However, Ilias and Mace are regular homo sapiens. The setting is, you know, sci fi, caveman outfitted, medieval, monsters and wolfmen and zombies, and a few more people.
Funny thing, the silhouettes of both Mace and Ilias -- most notably, their hairlines -- give them a resemblance to Jim Morrison. When the facial details are observed, the comparison lessens, but one almost thinks a crossing of those details would bring a nearer result. Plus, like other animal forms in the movie, snakes are prominent. And you know, that scene in Oliver Stone's flick with "The End," is there more coincidence...
OK, enough of that. Ocron's efforts to eliminate her stalkers seeking to end her evil rule center around beast and wolfmen attacks, and there are various other graphic scenes. For those who dislike violence and gore, graphic imagery, this film has them, yes, but they are mitigated by the atmosphere. "Cannibal Holocaust" and "Jungle Holocaust" are real (very), "Conquest" is surreal (equally as very).
To communicate what the atmosphere is like, I might initially say something like "darkly impressionistic." But first of all, it's not dark as in nightworld -- not really dark, but somewhat murky; Fulci enlists fog, as a matter of fact. Besides, "impressionistic" applies only in the broad association of the word of nonreproduction of realism, not the narrower definition involving use of light and uneven depth. For what makes the cinematography so fantastic is the depth of the backdrop--colors and form, and the blending of the colors. Motley, variegated? But don't these terms perhaps imply brightness and individual definition? Yet the brightness in "Conquest" is subtly refined, filtered within the nebulous atmosphere. The effect is nothing short of a dazzling work of art, a real treat for the viewer. For your eyes only.
Fulci is very successful in his efforts with broad, elaborate images -- the sky, the sun and moon, the sea and earth and vegetation. But he is also good on detail in the living beings and their surroundings. And although the movie's tale is only silly, the scenes are presented skillfully, well crafted and well edited.
So inferior are the pompous, amorphous special effects that viewers are barraged with by modern Hollywood movies (Mummy II, etc.) when measured against Fulci's work in "Conquest" that they come out as nothing but a joke by comparison. I wish to point out that I am no particular fan of European movies, preferring Hollywood overall, but I must say that in certain genres some Italian flicks represent the best of the Old World, with their exploration of basic human desires and instincts, their depth and bite, sometimes great humor, and, as here, atmosphere. See references above, plus "The Good the Bad and the Ugly," "The Sensuous Nurse," "The Legend of Frenchie King," "Farewell Uncle Tom," "La Dolce Vita..." For atmosphere and visuals, "Conquest" is triumphant.