The Untamed (2016) - Amat Escalante
Expertly crafted with a sense of lingering tension and foreboding dread, Amat Escalante's The Untamed is a subversive horror film exploring sexual desire, touching on how our primal instincts often conflict with our intellectually based morals, values, and culture which have been ingrained in humanities psyche by civilized society. Blending elements of science-fiction, horror, and Amat Escalante is subversive horror film tapping into the fundamental nature of pleasure, deconstructing how it's an essential aspect of life but also inherently selfish and destructive force which can cause harm when taken too far. Allegorical in nature, The Untamed tells the story of a Alejandra, a young mother of two boys, whose sexual needs are neglected by her husband Angel, a man who spends many nights away from home, involved in an extramarital affair with Alejandra's own brother. When the mysterious Veronica enters into the picture, all three characters soon finds their lives in a state of upheaval, with a mysterious malevolent force offering them maximal pleasure which ultimately leads to destruction. Amat Escalante's The Untamed is a brooding with atmosphere and dread, a fantasy film that provides a poignant and subversive study of sexual gratification, one that both reveals the importance of pleasure but also the inherent destruction it can bring when taken too far due to its inherent selfishness. A character drama with fantasy and horror elements, aspects of The Untamed reminded me of Pasoloni's iconic film, Teorema, with Veronica's calming, supportive, mysterious presence supplying comfort and companionship to the characters of both Alejandra and her brother, with Escalante's skilled direction suggesting that something evil is lurking beneath the surface. There is a subtlety of danger that engulfs this entire film, with Escalante crafting a mood the immersive and doesn't let up, relying heavily on slow-crawling camera movements to create this film's forboding sense of dread. Religious imagery is sprinkled through the film, lurking in the frame behind these characters, as if Amat Escalante wishes to suggest that religion is merely one potential stop-gap between humanities primal sexual desires, aiding in protecting us form the destructive qualities of pleasure. Perhaps Escalante's perspective is one of frustration when it comes to sexual repression which is an inherent aspect of much religion, with Alejandra's sexual repression only leading her down a path of destruction when she finally is able to tap into her sexuality. Rooted heavily in fantasy and science-fiction, Escalante's The Untamed works so well due to its strong characterizations and human elements, with Alejandra in particular being a character the audience can't help but root for, a woman who is completely underappreciated by her husband, a man who simply views her as a support vessel but nothing at all when it comes to sexuality or human desire. Subversive, cryptic, and well-designed, Amat Escalante's The Untamed is an alluring examination of humanities' sexual desires, a film that recognizes both the importance of such primal urges, but also the destructive power which can exist when one's own sexual gratification is taken too the extreme.
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