Movie review: ESPÍRITU SAGRADO: an impassive comedy-drama that never turns out to be the right thing [Locarno 2021]


Review of Espíritu Sagrado

Sacred spirit (2021) Film review of 74th edition Locarno Film festival, a movie written and directed by Chema García Ibarra, featuring Nacho Fernandez, Llum Arques, Rocío Ibáñez, and Joanna valverde.

The universe is full of mysteries that intrigue and terrify us, and there are those who will do anything to seek those answers … as well as others who will use this passion to their own insidious advantage. Chema García Ibarra tries to showcase this hectic balance of desires in her new film Sacred spirit (in Spanish for “The Sacred Spirit”), but the film loses its own identity due to an ineffective balancing act of thematic endgames.


In a small town in Spain, Vane, Charo’s daughter (Joanna Valverde) and Veró’s twin sister (Llum Arques), has been missing for weeks. Despite the efforts of the local authorities and the frequent reports on her, the investigation was largely unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Charo’s brother José Manuel (Nacho Fernández) is devastated by the loss of Julio (José Ángel Asensio), a local real estate broker and former UFO leader Levante (“UFO Lift”), a group of UFO enthusiasts of which José Manuel was a member. Responsible for leading the group in Julio’s absence, José Manuel seeks to carry out the mission of contacting aliens and awakening an “ancestral” spirit on Earth.

Their mother (Rocío Ibáñez), a former psychic who now finds herself in a wheelchair and partially mute following a stroke, loosely connects the two adult siblings. She lives with José Manuel in his apartment decorated with decoration centered on Egypt (including a poster depicting the Great Pyramids as giant spaceships), where he takes care of her after his day at work as a owner of a small Egyptian themed house. cafe (with its own distribution of weird regulars). Charo brings Veró there so that the child can reestablish a relationship with her grandmother and that she can also mend her own bond with her mother.

Unbeknownst to Charo and José Manuel (and even Veró), their spiritual paths intersect more than they might expect, leading to some illuminating but disturbing revelations.

Ibarra’s impassive sense of near-surreal humor would be quite at home in the odd Greek wave, making his location in Iberian cinema a bit of a geographic quirk. Normal-looking people go about their day-to-day and less-day-to-day chores with artful impassivity, all set in slightly washed-out images that rarely attempt anything photographically daring. José Manuel and his group of ufologists are the pinnacle of this wood aura, with Fernández rarely breaking his stoic focus.

However, unlike that of a Lanthimos or a Tsangari, Ibarra’s handwriting never evokes more than the occasional chuckle. There is an incredible drought in the world of Sacred spirit this makes it difficult to digest, especially since its sense of monotony makes it a tedious task. Not only that, but as the ending unfolds with its truly shocking twist, the film’s imbalance in tone is clearly highlighted. It turns out to be just a tasteless oddity before an abject tragedy, making neither black humor nor horror comedy, but rather a simple puzzling disappointment.

While that doesn’t mean the ending doesn’t highlight some of Ibarra’s topics – mostly about the alluring nature of sects and how abusive people will manipulate lonely, obsessive individuals into doing their dirty deeds. by teasing a sense of belonging. . The final scene truly choreographs such impending spiritual damage, as José Manuel finally feels at peace even though we as audiences know a major storm is about to engulf him. Yet this terrifying revelation runs counter to the light weirdness that occupies the vast majority of Sacred spirit, and the jarring transition feels out of place, like we, the audience, have been cheated – like, ethically speaking, not like we’ve just been thrown in for a fun, confusing loop.

Ultimately, Sacred spirit is periodically particular in how it challenges genres and offers the potential to shock, but this conflict of tone is more to its detriment than it is. It will probably only offer ascension to the most patient of us.

Evaluation: 5/ten

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