‘Ardor’ Combines Western Themes with Rainforest Magical Realism

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Ardor, the new film starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Alice Braga, combines magical realism and a Western flair to tell a story of violence and fighting for where you belong.

Ardor‘s story focuses on a small tobacco farm near the Parana River in Paraguay. The patriarch of the family, João, (Chico Díaz), suspects something is amiss when flash fires spring up in the rainforest surrounding their farm. He worries for his daughter, Vania (Alice Braga) and his partner, Jara (Lautaro Vilo).  Help arrives when Kai (Gael Garcia Bernal) comes to the farm. He wears tattoos of the local indigenous population and moves with the speed and grace of an animal. However, even with Kai’s help, the ruthlessness of the  land grabbers catches them by surprise. Jara is killed and João is forced to sign over his land before he is also murdered. The land grabbers kidnap Vania and take her deep into the forest. With his skills, Kai begins to follow the land grabbers to rescue Vania and take back the bogus bill of sale that gives away her farm. Though Kai is opposed to taking life, he and Vania must determine how far they will go to preserve the land that symbolises her way of life.

One of the most stunning visuals in the film include a tiger that seems to magically know whom not to eat. This tiger is introduced as a danger to the land-grabbers when they discover the body of a hung woman that has been torn to pieces and consumed by an animal. Though perceived as a threat to these wicked men, later scenes in the film picture the tiger watching over Kai as he sleeps amidst the trees. The tiger appears throughout the film as a constant reminder of the wildness of the forest and the beauty of what may be lost if the land grabbers have their way.

Ardor is not in English, so lovers of subtitles rejoice. The film focuses mostly on stunning visuals of the rainforest of the Parana River and the surrounding environment. It also focuses on a shirtless Gael Garcia Bernal. Keep an eye out for an intensely sensual sex scene between Bernal and Braga in the film. Trust me when I say the violence of the film should be more than enough to have you leave your kids with a sitter.

Still, the film is nearly two hours long and there are times where the visuals are not enough to hold the attention of the viewer. Dialogue is short and far between, so it is easy to get lost in the screen and miss what is being said. The themes of protecting one’s land in the face of those who wish to steal it gives Ardor a very Western style flair, so the little words and big action sequences make a good deal more sense when it is seen from that perspective.

Ardor is in limited release July 17, 2015.

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