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Film Review: “Embrace of the Serpent” (2015) ★★★★★


Every time we see a film, we try to learn something new. It helps to see the world in a way it was little known to you before. What Ciro Guerra achieves with the Embrace of the Serpent deserves admiration, respect and endless applause. It has the power to transport you from one world to another, which is not really far – the breathtaking Colombian Amazonia.

Film opens with the long quote from Theodor von Martius, and you get enough time to read it: “In this moment, it is not possible for me to know, dear reader, if the infinite jungle has started on me the process that has taken many others that have ventured into these lands, to complete and irremediable insanity.” Then, it continues: “he apologises and asks for your understanding, for the display he witnessed in his most enchanted hours.” The next scene will make you realize that this is not just an average film.

Embrace of the Serpent is divided into two parts. First, young aboriginal Colombian Karamakate meets Theodor von Martius, a German ethnographer, who is severely ill and searches for the mysteriously sacred psychedelic Yakruna plant which, he believes, will cure him completely. The second part is set forty years later, when aged Karamakate meets Evan, another German scientist, who is also trying to find the Yakruna plant. They travel together in the Colombian Amazonia and through their journey, the two men from two different continents build an extraordinary friendship with a mysterious  Amazonian shaman whose wisdom and vision of life change their inner worlds forever.

You get a strange feeling throughout this film. You find yourself magically extracted from your seat to the Amazonian jungle with Karamakate, the best native guide possible. This film shows you stunningly spectacular scenery in black-and-white. The dialogues are subtly and profound. The film unfolds with impeccable character development, which will make you feel like you’re merely a first-grade pupil who is about to get one of the most elementary, but important lessons of your life.

In conclusion, Embrace of the Serpent quickly catches your attention through its simplicity and beauty of nature it portrays. Screenplay is near to perfection. Direction leaves you nothing to complain about.  It is just too bad that this kind of film comes once in two decades, which is way too long to wait for.

Embrace of the Serpent (‘El abrazo de la serpiente’)

Directed by Ciro Guerra

In Spanish/Amazonian languages with English Subtitles


TORONTO – TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King St W)

OTTAWA – Mayfair Theatre (1074 Bank St.)

HALIFAX – Carbon Arc Cinema (1747 Summer St.)

WATERLOO – Princess Theatre (6 Princess St W)

EDMONTON – Metro Cinema (8712 109 St)

Opens MARCH 2

VANCOUVER – Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour St)

Opens MARCH 4

SASKATOON – Broadway Theatre (715 Broadway Ave)

Opens MARCH 11

MONTREAL – Cinema du Parc (3575 Avenue du Parc)

Opens MARCH 31

WINNIPEG – Cinematheque (100 Arthur St)

Festival Screenings

SALMON ARM – Shuswap International Film Festival (February 20&22)

KAMLOOPS – Kamloops Film Festival (March 12)


Official Selection

Cannes Film Festival

Toronto International Film Festival

AFI Film Festival


Directors’ Fortnight Art Cinema Award – Cannes Film Festival

Grand Jury Prize – Lima Film Festival 

Grand Jury Prize – Mar Del Plata International Film Festival


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