Thursday, 13 October 2016

LFF 2016 REVIEW - THE ORNITHOLOGIST (JOAO PEDRO RODRIGUES)


"Whoever approached the spirit will feel its warmth, hence his heart will be lifted up to new heights." Opaque and specialized as hell, though ravishing as heaven, Joao Pedro Rodrigues' The Ornithologist repurposes religion for its own sake, a blasphemous yet curiously reverent appropriation of spiritual tales; as with many of the most meaningful, it ties transcendence to perversion. A tactile soundscape, striking camera motions and compositions, and consistently corporeal concerns make Rodrigues' spiritual odyssey an accessible, tangible experience for the viewer, and recalibrate the specifics of the St. Anthony legends (alongside some other christian myths) in a manner far more relevant to director and viewer alike. The Ornithologist is an openly personal film, dealing with our director's own identity in a frank fashion; as our protagonist reacquires his sense of self, it is with a perspective rendered anew by a series of alarming occurrences, sexual connotations both overt and obscure, in processes of losing and receiving. This interior odyssey is precipitated by carnal encounters, and violent ones, and always the attractive idea that we come to know ourselves, and our purpose in life, not in internal reflection but in external experiences. If The Ornithologist means little to you, as indeed such a singular work of art is likely to, you might at least be drawn to its artistic achievements, which themselves seem designed solely to provide the film its worth, its stature as a work of art at all defined by the artistry on display. As vague and unyielding as its peculiarities may appear, their gleeful oddity, and the film's supreme technical beauty, are reason enough to indulge in this ever-surprising, highly satisfying piece of profoundly personal expression.