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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Embrace of the Serpent [Blu-ray]


(Ciro Guerra, 2015)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Ciudad Lunar Producciones 

Video: Oscilloscope Laboratories



Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:04:17.250 

Disc Size: 42,888,160,785 bytes

Feature Size: 32,925,284,352 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.99 Mbps

Chapters: 17

Case: Cardboard Blu-ray case

Release date: June 21st, 2016



Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio Spanish 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
DTS-HD Master Audio Spanish 4168 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4168 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)



English (SDH), none


Making Embrace of the Serpent (23:45)
Adventure, Culture, History, Magic - 4 In-Depth Behind the Scenes Segments (9:36)
Lessons from the Amazon - New Interview with Actor Brionne Davis (15:03)
• Theatrical Trailer (2:09)






Description: The ravages of colonialism cast a dark shadow over the South American landscape in "Embrace Of The Serpent," the first film shot in the Amazonian rainforest in over 30 years. Filmed in stunning black-and-white, the film centers on Karamakate (portrayed in various stages by Nilbio Torres and Antonio Bolívar Salvado), an Amazonian shaman and the last survivor of his people, and the two scientists (Evans and Theo, portrayed by Brionne Davis and Jan Bijvoet) who, over the course of 40 years, build a friendship with him. The film was inspired by the real-life journals of two explorers (Theodor Kock-Grünberg and Richard Evans Schultes) who traveled through the Colombian Amazon during the last century in search of the sacred and difficult-to-find psychedelic Yakruna plant.



The Film:


You are nothing but a white!” So shouts indigenous Amazonian shaman Karamakate (Nilbio Torres) to the seemingly on-the-level but still suspicious German scientist/explorer Theodor (Jan Bijvoet) in Ciro Guerra’s enthralling, politically tinged, psychedelic, historical adventure film Embrace of the Serpent. Reversing the perspective of more familiar movies such as Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo or Roland Joffé’s The Mission, Embrace of the Serpent’s snaky crawl up the river investigates imperialism’s cultural pollution from the inside out, with the mystical Karamakate as a reluctant tour guide in two time periods.

One of the film’s many exciting features is how it slowly cuts between parallel expeditions. Theodor, accompanied by a westernised local, arrives in a canoe, sick with fever. Begrudgingly, the loincloth-wearing Karamakate nurses him back to health by regularly blasting massive doses of white powder (“the sun’s semen”) up his nose.

Excerpt from The Guardian located HERE

The horror! The horror!” The terminal valediction of Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” is deconstructed with a raging eloquence in the Colombian director Ciro Guerra’s majestic, spellbinding film, “Embrace of the Serpent.” Is the unspeakable savagery evoked by his dying words really beyond the reach of the civilized imagination? I doubt it.

That tricky word “civilized” connotes enlightenment, behavioral restraint, evolutionary advancement and the suppression of bestial impulses. But what is so civilized about mass slaughter, torture and planetary despoliation in the name of anything or anybody? It shouldn’t have taken a journey up the Congo River for a white man to discover the evil within.

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Embrace of the Serpent looks excellent on Blu-ray from Oscilloscope Laboratories. It is situated on a dual-layered disc with a supportive bitrate. The 2-hour film was shot with Arricam LT, Zeiss Super Speed and Cooke Varotal Lenses and looks brilliant in black and white - the crispness accentuating the geography. It is 1080P in and around the 2.4 aspect ratio and the HD visuals export depth and marvelous detail in the naturally lit production. This is also coming to the UK on Blu-ray in September 2016 and we will try to get a copy to compare but this looked exceptional on my system.




















Audio :

For audio we are given the option of a linear PCM 2.0 channel track at 2304 kbps (24-bit) or a very robust DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround at a whopping 4168 kbps (24-bit). There are some adroit separations and the Amazon geography and its inherent sounds come through subtly. It significantly adds to the atmosphere. There is a score by Nascuy Linares that sounds perfect - clean and tight - in supporting the narrative. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE.


Extras :

There are some supplements as part of the Oscilloscope package. Making Embrace of the Serpent runs almost 24-minutes and show much of the production in-progress and details behind creating the film. Adventure, Culture, History, Magic has four In-Depth Behind the Scenes Segments running shy of 10-minutes. Lessons from the Amazon - is a new 15-minute interview with actor Brionne Davis (who I also recall from an episode of Ray Donovan!) and his impressions and experiences making Embrace of the Serpent. Lastly is a theatrical trailer.



Embrace of the Serpent is another exceptional package from Oscilloscope Laboratories. It's an amazing film - filled with culture, spirituality and a window on a rarely seen region. The experience of watching crosses many emotions from a fascination with the geography and culture to the background of story of the relationship and history behind Karamakate and the western characters. Brilliant may be an understatement. This Blu-ray package is an easy recommendation in fact we give it a very strong recommendation! See this film!

Gary Tooze

July 1st, 2016


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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