Luciferina Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Artsploitation Films
Written and directed by Gonzalo Calzada
2018, 111 minutes, Not Rated
Released on November 13th, 2018
Sofia Del Tuffo as Natalia
Pedro Merlo as Abel
Malena Sánchez as Ángela
Francisco Donovan as Mauro
Stefanía Koessl as Mara
Gastón Cocchiarale as Osvaldo
Natalia is a novitiate, a nun in training. She loves God and doing His work and is eager to contribute at the abbey where she resides. She receives word that her parents have been involved in an accident leaving her father an injured widower. Natalia returns home to see what she can do and reunites with her estranged sister, Ángela, the black sheep of the family. Ángela is planning a trip down river to an isolated location to experiment with a mystical hallucinogenic plant that will cleanse the soul. A group of her friends are going along for the ride and she insists Natalia join them. Their destination holds many secrets and the shaman performing the ritual carries great wisdom. Natalia is prone to visions and this journey may bring some understanding, but there is something darker here too.
Luciferina is an Argentinian film from writer/ director Gonzalo Calzada (Resurrection), who sets up the story beautifully. There is an immediate sense of dread that he steadily builds on for the first half of the picture. He makes the most of some truly beautiful locations and lulls the viewer into his web with confidence. The dynamic between the lead characters is thoughtful and well-realized. There are some rough edges surrounding the supporting cast members when it comes to development, as they are largely included merely as potential victims. Calzada’s strength as a director is undermined ultimately by his writing, as the second half of the script grinds to a halt for an extended exorcism scene that proves quite tedious.
Indeed the last hour of the picture is a bit of a chore, partially due to its extended length and tonal shift. Calzada aims for something bigger than he can deliver, but deserves points for trying. Once we reach this faceoff between good and evil, the film grows overly talky and redundant. Themes of sexual repression and predestination of fate are prominent throughout but become heavy-handed. The back half of the film is at odds with everything that comes before, reducing the significance of the relationships to mere incidentals. There is no resolution to the conflicts set up during the opening and much of the initial plot is sidestepped for a grand finale that ultimately lacks punch.
Sofia Del Tuffo does a fine job as Natalia and plays well off Pedro Merlo as Abel. The two carry the bulk of the picture and do all of the heavy lifting for the final act. Malena Sánchez plays a great foil as Ángela, the rebellious sister. I wanted more of the relationship between her and Natalia and a resolution to their conflict, but the script had other goals instead. Calzada shines with his depictions of reality vs. nightmare once everyone has taken the drug and we become privy to their hallucinations. I wish there had been more of this and less of the final showdown, as the film could easily stand to lose about twenty minutes of running time.
Luciferina is a beautiful but frustrating film that is the start of a proposed trilogy that I don’t know if I am on board for. Calzada proves himself as a director with some great moments, but he would be better served working from someone else’s script. The film did well at festivals and is definitely worth checking out and I can recommend it as a rental, but keep your expectations in check.
Video and Audio:
Luciferina arrives with a solid transfer of the picture presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Colors and black levels are well-balanced and there is a lot of small-object detail to be found in hair and fibers.
A Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish language track provides a generous amount of activity for the rear channels as we make our way through the environment to the abbey. Once inside, there is decent isolation for certain sound effects. A 2.0 stereo mix is also offered. Dialogue remains clear and free from distortion.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
The original theatrical trailer is included.