This bold, epic, supernatural provoking cinematic artsploitation film, is one of my favourite Frightfest movies this year.
Coming from Argentinian director Gonzalo Calzada, Luciferina tells the story of Natalia (Sofía Del Tuffo), a young nun who can see auras. After the death of her mother, she returns home to the deathbed of her mute father.
But relations are strained with her older sister who blames her for leaving and having to cope with their difficult and somewhat deranged mother before she died.
Settling into the house proves challenging as Natalia is haunted by ghostly apparitions of a woman trying to harm her.
Natalia’s sister is also disturbed by the house and suggests that they take a trip with a group of friends to an island to do a ritual with the aid of ayahuasca to help them combat their own traumas and discover regressive truths. Natalia is at first sceptical about the excursion, especially with her own religious sensibilities, but agrees to accompany the group.
Visiting the spooky residence sparks a familiarity, except Natalia can’t quite place her visions. Finally, the group settle down to take the ayahuasca, descending into their own hell and truths that are by far too horrifying to handle.
There’s much to discuss about this film, the honest truth of spiritual bypass; repressing traumas and praying to god for salvation.
Coming of age themes; a relationship between character Natalia and a social recluse called Tomas (Tomás Lipán) who provokes her principles by revealing himself as both good and evil.
And there’s the past, revealing how parents are the making of children’s traumas, facing ancestors, discovering how they’ve contributed to spiritual being by driving offspring through the valley of revelation towards spiritual awakening. If the awakening is reached…
In the case of Luciferina, Natalia has to combat her own repressive thoughts and lust for the greater good. Gonzalo cleverly presents the dichotomy through sanctimonious predilection using two religious practices with opposing arguments.
According to Christian missionaries in 16th century when they discovered the South American indigenous population, ayahuasca was referred to as ‘the work of the devil.’ Here we have the epitome of angelic purity with Natalia, a nun, contrasted with Tomas, possessed by both his upbringing, the devil and spiritual oppression.
The story of a youthful Adam and Eve is recreated, bestowing scenes of forbidden eroticism, true love and pain which must be endured in order to break through psychological and spiritual entanglement.
There is uncomfortable viewing with scenes of rape which transforms into love-making, but Gonzalo justifies these scenes by launching the audience on an almost sensory journey as the couple battle for body and soul.
Gonzalo also explores tantric themes, with Natalia appearing as goddess Shakti, embracing the spiritual path of the divine. The manifestation of sexual energy opens up sacred pathways encouraging unification through orgasmic pleasure seen between Natalia and Tomas as she embraces her supreme lover, leading them into Bhakti: pure love and devotion. A spiritual cleansing is achieved and a small death through ejaculation and the release of Tomas’ soul, as ‘woman saves man.’ Unfortunately, according to tantric law, ejaculation can affect the woman, after all, she enables his release in order to save him from death, yet takes all his baggage as he expels his troubled energy into her. But that’s a story for another day.
These intense scenes of possession are refreshingly different to the Exorcist and assault the audience in prolonged ordeals of exorcism and torture which will leave scars ingrained in the depths of your consciousness.
The whole story is told through stunning gothic and pagan cinematic stylisations, gorgeous tracking shots of churches and church yards. Angelic rays of light cast purity against the heavenly backdrop of the church. Then there’s the complete opposite with dark shamanistic encampments, pocomania and occultism. And, incredible practical and visual effects, with some serious art direction and awe-striking stunts.
Luciferna is a must-see-movie for its multi-layered themes and provoking narrative. There’s many points to discuss both politically and socially, that the film makes great dinner-with-movie-friends conversation.
Oh hail Gonzalo Calzada! Amén.
Categories: Horror, horror film
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