A Bracing Hug from the Serpent

DATELINE: Stunning Jungle Tale


Unabashed Niblio Torres

Without the lush greenery of The Emerald Forest, the new depiction of a similar tale can be found in the black and white masterpiece by Ciro Guerra.

It’s called Embrace of the Serpent. It rivals the Boorman film for its sympathy for the vanishing culture of the Amazonian native.

Though the audience for a film about the Amazonian jungle might be great, and the subject matter greater, it may not find its following unless word-of-mouth raises the awareness.

You seldom find a virginal performance with such power as given by Niblio Torres as the mysterious young shaman, sort of the last Mohican of his tribe, in the role of Karamakate. His elder version is played by Antonio Bolivar in equally adept fashion.

Torres likely will make few movies unless he’s called upon to play Incan princes. Yet, he is subtle, powerful, and utterly enchanting in his role.

The film tells two stories, forty years apart, as a German explorer and a Bostonian scientist, go on a journey down the Amazon River to find a medicinal and magical plant. Each man has the same guide, but forty years separate the stories.

When the scientist in 1950 confronts Karamakate, he tells him he has devoted his life to plants. The shaman informs him this is the most intelligent thing he has ever heard spoken by a white man.

Karamakate is pure in heart and spirit. The same cannot be said for the other characters he confronts. Only Manduca, the German’s Indian companion on the canoe ride, seems to have retained integrity, despite becoming the servant of the German philosopher.

You owe it to yourself to seek out the embrace.