Juan Diego Escobar Alzate (director)
21 December 2021 (released)
03 January 2021
What is immediately striking about Luz: The Flower of Evil is the beauty of the Colombian landscape and the vibrant colours of the forests and mountains. The music overlaying adds to the feeling. It’s a startling opening that’s so much more powerful when put against the conversation between the grimy countenances of El Senor (Conrado Osorio) and his daughter Laila (Andrea Esquivel) regarding a cassette recorder and tape that she has found. El Senor leads a small religious community which bans these items as the devils work and his temptation.
Laila along with her two adopted sisters Uma (Yuri Vargas) and Zion (Sharon Guzman) are dubbed angels by El Senor. The women while committed are on different paths with Laila pushing hard against the doctrine as is Uma, though with more romantic naivety, with Zion completely in awe of their leader.
Having lost their mother Luz the community is struggling somewhat still grieving but also questioning the miracles that were supposed to come, and thus the leadership. Add to this the capture of a kidnapped young boy who is dubbed the messiah by El Senor though kept chained up you have a melting pot and delicate powder keg of emotions that are continually on the brink of control.
The boldness of the photography and palate from the camera correlates with director and writer Juan Diego Escobar Alzate’s control of the characters and the script. It’s a dense one that looks at religious - I would hazard a guess at Catholic – doctrine at its most convoluted as when Laila’s recording of classical music is heralded as beautiful with that beauty being the temptation into his arms putting forward.
There’s a convicted mania about El Senor that is reminiscent of Nurse Maud in Saint Maud though the latter’s internal dialogue more than hints at mental illness while with the former it is not quite so pronounced. A zealot there is no doubt, though can that, or should it be, linked to other mental issues?
It’s an intense performance from Osorio in which the passion of the man is blatant though not so clear cut if he has the community’s best interests at heart. The three daughters are much clearer in their outlooks with good performances from the actors though Vargas has the slightly more complicated role with a more nuanced character.
Luz is not the fastest film holding a steady pace throughout so requires some work on the part of the viewer. This infuses it with a quasi-reverential ambience that belies a seething undercurrent of pent-up lusts and malevolence that occasionally spill out.
It’s a challenging film that does fall within the horror genre. Which in turn places some expectations on it (which are met) but Luz is also a good example of what imaginative filmmakers are doing exploring what can be done within the genre and pushing the boundaries.
Luz: The Flower of Evil is available now on Shudder.