Terminal Rite (2000)

  |  Drama, Fantasy, Mystery

Terminal Rite (2000) Poster

The adventure of a young photographer in the Mexican jungle, searching for his lost shadow, stolen by an old Indian witch.


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1 March 2002 | Spleen
Gorgeously fine-grained
If there's a single element I love, it's the film stock. It's as if we see every single mote of dust, strand of hair, every spark of every firecracker explosion, and a thousand different shades of every colour. The "visions" (if that really is the best word for them) are as vivid and minutely detailed as everything else. Not a single effects shot is used anywhere. This is precisely the kind of effect the phrase "magical realism" was coined to describe.

Cinematographic style aside, it's rather like a Mexican version of Peter Weir's "The Last Wave". A somewhat inexperienced city slicker stumbles across an older, more rooted tribal culture, the confused and incoherent beliefs of which turn out to be true. The outsider must start to take seriously myths he doesn't understand. And I must say, in this case, I didn't understand them either. It's clear enough that the outsider lost his shadow, had his spirit bound up with that of someone else's, and started seeing things that happened in the past (or were in some sense still happening...?), and that in order to "cure" himself he had to ... well, that's the bit I completely failed to even begin to understand. This might have been partly the fault of the subtitles on the print I saw, which were clearly written by someone with only approximate ideas of English grammar - I suspect not, but I must give the story the benefit of the doubt.

It doesn't matter much. We're watching the "coming to life" of confusing (and probably confused) supernatural beliefs, and a confusing (probably confused) ending is just part of the deal. Anyway, a film with assured rhythms that looks this good can afford to be bewildering.

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Drama | Fantasy | Mystery

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