LUZ: THE FLOWER OF EVIL (2019)
aka LUZ, SHARE WITH ME YOUR BRIGHTEST COLORS
Directed by Juan Diego, Escobar Alzate
Written by Juan Diego, Escobar Alzate
Starring Conrado Osorio, Andrea Esquivel, Yuri Vargas, Sharon Guzman, Jim Muñoz, Johan Camacho, Marcela Robledo, Daniel Páez
Find out more about this film here!
Not to be mistaken for the excellent experimental film LUZ released last year, LUZ: THE FLOWER OF EVIL is a resonant tale of religious fanaticism set against the gorgeous backdrop of the Colombia countryside.
El Senor (Conrado Osorio) is the spiritual leader of a group of Colombian peasants living off of the land and giving thanks to God for what little they have. El Senor preaches his own version of the gospel, which has many, many rules, and keeps the entire group in line. His three daughters Laila (Andrea Esquivel ), Uma (Yuri Vargas), and Zion (Sharon Guzman) are looked at as angels and worshipped by the camp. The girls, blossoming into womanhood, are of course, curious about the world outside of the little group and full of questions that El Senor deems blasphemous. When a woman and her child wander into the village, El Senor gets rid of the woman and dubs the child Jesus the son of God (played by Johan Camacho). El Senor chains the boy in a stable and says that Jesus’ presence will bless their group. But the boy seems to bring nothing but evil to the land and to El Senor’s flock.
LUZ: FLOWER OF EVIL centers on the perversion of religion and how that can be devastating to those following that religion, especially to those who are young and impressionable. The three daughters are devoted to El Senor’s preachings, believe their actions have effects of their fate and fortune and harbor extreme guilt over simply having thoughts that are natural for teenage girls reaching puberty. El Senor’s overly protective paternal nature over his daughters of course become a factor in his preachings, filling them with fear and guilt. This makes for an extremely stressful watch, as the girls are curious about boys and the world beyond their small borders, questioning everything El Senor mandates and ending up either being punished for their curiosity or wracked with guilt for natural feelings. This is the main conflict of the film and it takes on a myriad of forms as each daughter perceives the preachings, the guilt, and their own curiosity in their own way. The result is a rich portrait of religion’s destructive burden on natural ways of life.
These heavy themes are supported by powerful performances. These characters look and act as if they are truly living in this poverty-level lifestyle. Each of the daughters shine in their own way. We get to see Laila (Esquivel) soar while listening to music from the outside world on a tape player she finds in the forest. We see Uma (Vargas) flutter as she flirts with a local boy. And see Zion (Guzman) fearlessly approach anything she doesn’t understand head on despite her young age and small frame. Trying to wrangle these three precocious young women is the overpowering and somewhat understandably burdened El Senor. He is not a villain with evil intent (though there are base instincts, feelings, and urges he gives in to that are less than holy). He is hampered with the responsibility not only to lead his followers, but also with the fear of the world and what it can do to his innocent girls. His villainy comes from his love of his daughters and that’s what makes Osorio’s character of El Senor so fascinating.
In many way LUZ: FLOWER OF EVIL is a retelling of the same themes of fear, curiosity, paranoia, and perversion that were prevalent in THE VVITCH. Like that film, it is mainly set in a simpler time, focusing on a blossoming female character and how that metamorphosis threatens the orderly comfort of the struct religious culture in one family. As much as THE VVITCH is an arthouse film, LUZ: FLOWER OF EVIL is more so as it is a patient, often silent film, that focuses on soaking in the lush landscape, the bare scratchings the culture of El Senor’s followers make on the land, and the vastness of the dark night sky. It is not a mainstream film and those who are looking for one should seek elsewhere for entertainment. But the wonderous performances, tragic themes, and gorgeous look of filmmakers Juan Diego and Escobar Alzate make for a treat for those with an appetite for meatier themes, horrifying actions, and dangerously tempting sights.