Swimming in symbolism, transgressive eroticism, and perplexing surrealistic assertions about its main protagonist, Joao Pedro Rodrigues' The Ornithologist is an artistic achievement that is bound to confound as many as it entrances, a film far more interested in crafting an irresistible allure of intrigue and mystery than providing its audience with any concrete take aways about what it is or what it isn't. An enigmatic descent into the personal and spiritual odyssey of Fernando, a solitary ornithologist, who finds himself lost in the wilderness, The Ornithologist takes on a homeric spiritual quest of enlightenment, one that finds Fernando faced to confront his inner self, as he ventures deeper and deeper into this mysterious setting. Radical in design yet alluring in its surrealistic execution, Joao Pedro Rodrigues' The Ornithologist is the type of film that is best observed with a cunning yet receptive eye, as the filmmaker has created an experience full of radical dramatic mutations, one thats unpredictable nature reinforces its opaque narrative centered around one man's spiritual and transformative journey in this surrealistic environment. Perhaps best described as a subversive take on the adventures of St. Anthony, The Ornithologist details a man who through this spiritual odyssey is driven to extreme, transformative actions, with the film feeling deeply personal and heavily rooted in allegorical devices centered around homosexual repression and our main character's struggle to reach a place of personal and spiritual comfort. While much of The Ornithologist is wholly up to the interpretation of its viewer, the film's most powerful assertion is related to the existential nature of main's incessant nature to attempt to define and understand the indecipherable nature of life itself, detailing how personal and spiritual enlightment itself often comes in ones ability to let go, and except that some things in life will never be as easily comprehending or explained as we as individuals wish it to be. Through our main protagoinst's mysterious and surrealistic journey he reaches enlightenment only when he begins to accept this ideal, letting go and reaching some semblance of solace, comfort, and acceptance when it comes to the unknown aspects of oneself and our existence, an arch which could certainly be interpreted as an allegorical device related to homosexual repression. Through the various characters he encounters, most notable the Chinese Christian woman, Fernando finds himself continuously confronted by Christian theology and its preconceived notions of morality and worth, confrontations that push this character towards internal tranformative moments, ones which eventually lead him towards a higher understanding of oneself. Rodrigues continuously juxtaposes christian theology with that of nature itself, showcasing how both forces in The Ornithologist come to symbolize things out of our control as human beings, with Fernando's odyssey towards personal enlightment being driven by his ability to listen to and accept guidance from things he can't simply comprehend or fully understand, a concept which the viewer themselves should keep in mind when attempting to comprehend this opaque and enigmatic piece of artistry. Radical in design and thematically challenging, Joao Pedro Rodrigues' The Ornithologist feels personal in its assertions about individualistic sexual repression while simultaneously grandiose in its attempt to deconstruct existentialism, being a film which attempts to find solace in the unexplainable nature of life itself. Full of alluring thematic ideals that are bound to stay with the viewer long after the credits roll, The Ornithologist is best viewed as a film in which one doesn't go in looking for concrete thematic assertions, accepting instead that much of this film, like life itself, is beautiful due its enigmatic, undefinable nature.
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