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Cristobal Leon Joaquin-Cocina The Hyperboreans Review

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The Hyperboreans | 2024 Cannes Film Festival Review

The Hyperboreans | 2024 Cannes Film Festival Review

From the Land of Ice and Snow: Cocina & Leon Pursue Hermetical Cinematic Spell

Cristóbal León, Joaquín Cociña Hyperboreans ReviewTo say the latest feature from the experimentally inclined Chilean directing duo Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña is unclassifiable would be something of an understatement, delving as it does into a new frontier of juxtapositions, collapsing visual textures and narrative structures while somehow remaining coherent. Following their sinister 2018 animated feature The Wolf House (2018) and having contributed to the standout animated sequences of Ari Aster’s Beau is Afraid (2023), the duo deliver something even more exceptionally offbeat with The Hyperboreans (Los hiperbóreos), a reference to inhabitants of ‘the extreme north,’ here routed back to the troubling Aryan mythos of self-classified supreme racial hierarchies fantasized by the Nazis. In essence, the quite brief running time finds a woman in search of a missing film she wrote and starred in, the recovery of which just might regenerate one of history’s most vicious figures. The end result is a fantastical journey of inventive flourishes, troubling histories, and cinematic discourse driven to odd and extreme conclusions.

Cristobal Leon Joaquin-Cocina The Hyperboreans Review

The film opens with omniscient narration regarding the evolutionary prowess of humans, while a hypnotic black and white pattern, shaped like the outline of a fingerprint, pulsates on a small, old fashioned television set. It is the barest of hints which sets up the film’s attempt at its own logical discourse as regards the possible evolution of cinema and humanity, a technology of a higher power used to immortalize, channel, and eventually rebirth not only thoughts and ideas, but presumably humans themselves. We’re introduced to a beautiful woman, named Antonia Giesen (the same name of the actor portraying her), a clinical psychologist who tells us about a film she starred in, the idea of which was born from a client referred to as the Metalhead from ten years prior. He relays a story to her about a game he played in the 1990s, a virtual reality realm entered through a specific Excel format where one could die if their avatar were killed. Experiencing auditory hallucinations, she asks the patient to journal when medication doesn’t seem to solve his problem. The result is a science-fiction script set in Chile, which inspires her to approach a pair of directors who make the film, starring her. But the celluloid is lost, so explaining her journey to find it again, ten years later. But through the search of this lost film, more dangerous possibilities transpire on her odyssey as she enters this virtual reality universe herself, a situation for which fate seems to have specifically selected her.

Cristobal Leon Joaquin-Cocina The Hyperboreans Review

The strikingly offbeat methods of The Hyperboreans feels like Anna Kavan melded together with Ira Levin’s The Boys from Brazil, pushing boundaries deliriously beyond more logical suggestions in other recent genre fare, like Prano Bailey-Bond’s Censor (2021). The mixture of animated gestures and the personification of other characters through the use of theatrical and practical effects also recalls Jan Svankmajer, with the rueful flourishes of Bertrand Mandico. As we follow the supremely unbothered Antonia Giesen, whose surname should be a clue for the film’s insane finale, it’s as if a heroine from a Matias Pineiro film were transposed into the alchemized stage play of Alistair Crowley reinterpreting Shakespeare.

Cristobal Leon Joaquin-Cocina The Hyperboreans Review

Bizarre, but not without its own unique brand of narrative and visual rewards, The Hyperboreans is an eclectic, disturbing, and formidable foray into the creative possibilities of what cinema can be. Much like their disturbing first feature The Wolf House, which similarly examines the ripple effects of Nazism in Chile after WWII, Cociña and León have found a perverse alchemy for cinema as a tool both delightful and disquieting.

Reviewed on May 16th at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival – Directors’ Fortnight. 62 Mins

★★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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