Embrace of the Serpent

Embrace of the Serpent ★★★★

From Francis Ford Coppola to Werner Herzog, maverick filmmakers have always been entranced by the madness of the jungle. Colombian director Ciro Guerra's Embrace of the Serpent doesn't shy away from the violence of Apocalypse Now or the delirium of Fitzcarraldo, but his trippy dive into the dark heart of his homeland is ultimately like nothing you've seen before.

In 1909, sick and scraggly Dutch explorer Theodor von Martius (Borgman star Jan Bijvoet) travels up the Amazon river in search of the rare yakruna leaf that can supposedly cure his illness. Although he's aided by a native companion who paddles him downstream, Von Martius knows that only one man can help him find what he's after: Karamakate (Nilbio Torres), a distrusting Cohiuano shaman who's the last of his tribe. Every so often, the film jumps 40 years into the future to join a rugged American named Evan (Brionne Davis) as he enlists an older Karamakate (now played by Antonio Bolivar) to retrace his steps on a hunt for the same plant — snaking together these parallel journeys into a mesmeric call and response.