Icaros: A Vision
ICAROS: A VISION, drama, not rated, The Screen, 3.5 chiles
Angelina (Ana Cecilia Stieglitz) has come to the Peruvian Amazon to face her fear of death by taking ayahuasca, a blend of psychotropic plants used in healing and spiritual ceremonies. She stays with a family of shamans in a bare-bones jungle retreat, along with a handful of others on similar personal journeys, including a man looking to stop using cocaine and marijuana so often and an actor who wants to overcome his stutter. Each night the group gathers in the ceremony tent to drink the bitter brew and lie back on mattresses, letting their visions guide them to a place of epiphany, or at least to a greater freedom of the mind. The younger of the shamans, Arturo (Arturo Izquierdo), has something wrong with his eyes, but he does not know if the problem is medical or magical.
In this highly visual movie, dialogue is minimal and the storyline is a scaffolding for viewer projection and extrapolation. The tone is set by opening stretches of nature imagery and poetic voice-overs from an old woman who gathers the plants, gently exhorting viewers to listen to the sounds of the forest. Nothing is rushed in Icaros: A Vision, and much of the dramatic tension comes from the representations of the characters’ hallucinatory states and their contrast with the sedate and relatively silent stretches of time between doses of ayahuasca. We learn that icaros are ceremonial healing songs. Arturo — in his distress over his eyes, which he fusses with constantly during daylight hours — cannot sing them, a limitation that affects his work as a shaman.
Subtle acting performances take a backseat to symbolism and openended spiritual and psychological exploration in this meditative treatment of the ayahuasca-tourism industry. Though we know very little about what Angelina might be facing, she has clearly been through a medical ordeal and needs a way to find peace and accept her mortality. Some clinical images flash through her ayahuasca visions — an MRI tube, a preparation for surgery. Their subtle echo can be found when the characters leave the forest for the town, where there is evidence of environmental degradation due to the logging industry. Whether or not this timber clearing is encroaching on the land or the livelihoods of the ayahuasca shamans is left unstated.
A kind of menace, which often seems tied to the use of light, hangs over much of the movie. A great deal of meaning is linked to the use of daylight and darkness that reverses on itself depending on where we are in the movie’s timeline as well as where we are physically in the movie. In the forest, light is mostly good, while in town it seems garish and dangerous. Darkness recedes as Angelina and the others more deeply embrace the transformative experience they were nervously seeking. — Jennifer Levin
Meeting of minds: left, Ana Cecilia Stieglitz