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Enrique Olvera’s film, Astral, is anything but ordinary. Tackling issues of sexuality, globalization, the afterlife and supernatural entities, Olvera attempts to captivate the mysterious world of shamanism and its trancelike rituals through artistic and colorful visuals. The film, inspired by Olvera’s own experience with shamanism, is the story of Dryna, a woman that travels to Astral (a magical realm) to experience the stories her grandfather once told her. Once there, she encounters different beings that give her a newfound insight into the universe.

The surrealistic film is shot in various cities around the world and told in seven languages, including Spanish, Italian, French and Japanese. Using these elements, Olvera moves back and forth between the story of Dryna and the beings that she encounters. This back and forth movement, however, often makes the film a bit confusing and hard to follow. In one instance, for example, Dryna is seen peacefully floating in water, but then the scene changes and another woman comes into view—in a different setting and speaking a different language. It takes a while to figure out that the scene is actually Dryna’s trance dream and that we are getting a chance to experience it through her eyes.

A large thematic element of the film is the universe itself. Images of the moon, the sea and the sky are offset with sounds of chirping birds and the howling wind. It’s a way for Olvera to pay tribute to the universe but it often makes the film drag on a bit too long, making it hard for some viewers to sit through. Given a chance though, the images, transposed against colored hues of red, yellow, purple and blue, acquire an almost poetic appeal that allows viewers to transcend further into Dryna’s dream.

Astral is not your ordinary film and it’s definitely not your ordinary storyline. Its slow pace sometimes can have you wishing it would move a little faster and at times you wonder if you yourself are under the same trance as Dryna. But it’s Olvera’s underlying message that makes Astral worth watching.  His capacity to explore the mysterious worlds of Satsang, Shamanism and Zen philosophy challenges each and every one of us to open our minds and see the world with different eyes and understand that we are all part of something greater.

Mexico/Spain/France, 2009, 120 min.
Director: Enrique Olvera
Genre: Surrealism
Various languages with subtitles

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