Icaros: A Vi­sion

ICAROS: A VI­SION, drama, not rated, The Screen, 3.5 chiles

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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

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