Embrace of the Serpent

Rated 4.0

Although Colombian writer-director Ciro Guerra based his languidly hallucinatory Amazon adventure Embrace of the Serpent on the real-life diaries of two white explorers, the story is viewed through the eyes of Karamakate, an isolated shaman who encounters both men four decades apart. Guerra divides his two-pronged narrative patiently instead of urgently, but if you give Embrace of the Serpent time to build its world, the film grows quite entrancing, like an episodic jungle adventure à la Apocalypse Now with flashes of a Herzog-ian rainforest fever dream. It’s an elegy for lost cultures and an indictment of exploitation only occasionally waylaid by its own dreary good intentions. Guerra and cinematographer David Gallego make excellent use of black-and-white photography here, refusing to indulge like tourists in the lush greenery of the jungle. The style feels equally indebted to history and hallucination, just right for a film about the link between memories and dreams. D.B.