Tuesday, 26 October 2021

Luz - The Flower Of Evil

Every Which
Way But Luz

Luz - The Flower Of Evil
Columbia 2019
Directed by Juan Diego Escobar Alzate
Fractured Visions Blu Ray Zone B

Warning: Flowering spoilers.

Luz - The Flower Of Evil, not to be confused with about a gazillion other films called Luz, is a film I knew absolutely nothing about until a brand new UK label, Fractured Visions, decided to put this one up for pre-order as their second release. I looked at the trailer and it seemed like something I might enjoy and the package they were offering... comprising a nice cardboard slip case cover (which, as it turns out, makes much more of a solid statement than anything in the actual film itself), six art cards designed as miniature lobby cards, a nicely designed booklet (which appears to be masquerading as a Betamax video cassette... not featured in the film... but which for some reason has a VHS logo on the design... yeah, okay, VHS was the system with two wheels in the window guys), a bunch of extras such as a short film (which I’ve not seen yet) and, the clincher for me which made the difference between hitting the pre-order button and letting the film languish outside of my experience, a CD soundtrack of the film’s quite hypnotic score by Brian Heater (which I’m listening to as I type).

The film itself is a somewhat subtle but almost hallucinogenic trip of a movie, featuring slow but sure camerawork and, quite often, highly saturated colours to depict the landscapes and dwellings of the very small community of people who populate the film (a community which is barely in double figures, by the looks of it). It’s one of those rural movies which, in this case, barely slips into folk horror but, depending on the way you choose to decode the film, might well slide into that territory for many audience members.

The film features Jim Muñoz as Adán, who rules this very small community with a Religious fervour. It’s a primitive community but there are a few tell tale signs to show that this little group are living, perhaps, a little more primitively than they need to. For example, there are two guns seen in the film and a tape recorder... which I’ll get onto in just a moment. Adán is bringing up the three daughters of his dead wife Luz... one by him and two by her. He has convinced the village they are angels and they are Andrea Esquivel as Laila, Yuri Vargas as Uma and Sharon Guzman as Zion. They are as afraid of him as perhaps some of the other villagers. He keeps telling everyone that, when the young Jesus, in the form of a new messiah, comes to the community... they will be saved, the countryside will be fruitful again, their sins will be washed away and the dead tree which he buried to mark the grave of Luz, will bloom.

Then, one day, Laila finds a tape recorder and two tapes, which are filled with lovely music. Adán patiently explains to her that music is ‘the Devil’s chant’. He confiscates the tape recorder and one of the tapes (she hides the other from him). Later on, when it’s her birthday and he has wiped the tape, he returns it to her, not realising she can still listen to the ‘evil music’. Meanwhile, Adán steals a young boy from a neighbouring community, rapes the mother and exiles her, then chains the boy up outside where the family has to keep him fed... because ‘obviously’ he is the baby Jesus that the folk there so need. Later on, we find that this is the fifth baby Jesus he’s found in two years.

I won’t say what happens after this but there are very subtle signs, throughout the movie and as tensions within the community escalate... mostly due to the incongruities and over enthusiasm of this Religious nutter... when you start to wonder if this silent boy actually is Jesus or, considering his unflinching attitude to the wrong doings in the community and his silent conversations with the their goat, whether the child is the exact opposite of that. The anti-Christ sent to bring the downfall of these people.

And there are some very subtle hints, I think, that the answer could be the latter but ultimately I think the audience needs to unpack that baggage for themselves. So I won’t say much more about the story other than... there is sin and there will be blood.

The film is not particularly fast paced. It’s one of those pieces which transcends the need for a rush of ideas... instead it takes you on a journey where the tensions are ratcheted up by the religious and philosophical propositions, such as they are, which are discussed by the various protagonists. What is not seen is sometimes as important, perhaps more so, than any incidents that are captured on camera for the benefit of the audience. In the accompanying booklet, the writer/director lays bare his influences which include a number of things which will get people excited, such a the cinema of Alejandro Jodorowsky and even Robert Eggers fairly recent movie The VVitch, which I think this film is a lot closer to than anything else (and which I reviewed here). Personally, if we’re going to play the director’s game and compare it to cinematic works from before, I think the film has huge doses of Jane Campion’s The Piano in it (and Jim Muñoz seems to be positively channeling Sam Neil in this movie, it seems to me) and a very strong ‘girls together’ vibe that marks the work of writers such as Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott.

And I don’t have much more to say about Luz - The Flower Of Evil, I think. People are going to love the saturated colours which permeate a fair amount of the shots, especially on the grainier, exterior ‘nature’ shots and I think people will conclude different things from the direction of the story, which isn’t a bad thing actually and I suspect that may be what the director would best hope for. I also think it’s a film which might divide audiences... some will love it and want to revisit many times and... others won’t, I suspect. Now, at time of writing, I’ve not had as much time to process the film and to let it haunt me properly so I’m not sure if I’m leaning more to the first more than the second camp in that equation but, I do know one thing... the soundtrack CD was worth the price of purchase alone and it will definitely be getting some more spins out of me before the year is done.

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