After a good time at festivals, the film reaches limited theaters on the art circuit snake’s paradise, a fable that makes an approach to spirituality, questioning the concepts of faith in a remote town in the desert, making a mixture between western and surreal overtones. In Chronicle Scenario we chatted with Bernardo Arellanofilmmaker who delved into the different layers and constructions offered by this fantastic Mexican film.
“The film is a reflection on faith and poses a dilemma about whether it needs to be part of a religion or not because hearing the word is immediately associated with it.. But here is the debate about what it is, a power that we all have that is not any kind of magic but a power that has more to do with the will. These various questions are opened with the narration that the film raises”, the Mexican director began by explaining.
“Somehow it is a very poetic project that at the same time has elements of the western with many symbolisms that gradually add layers that enrich its reading. It does not speak of something that is hidden, but it does offer elements to be deciphered, offering a somewhat enigmatic experience for the spectator”, added Arellano, focusing on the almost surreal edges of the film.
Something that stands out in this story is the creation of an interesting atmosphere that is supported by elements such as non-professional actors as well as the technical aspect. “Angel Garnica He is the only actor who already had an idea of this work, but the others are natural people, which I like because I think they help to elaborate that atmosphere very much in the style of Juan Rulfo. The stories of him, as The Burning Plainfeed a lot to the photography made by Damian Aguilarwhich is accompanied by a great sound design by Dario Arellano Y Victor Navarro. These factors give the film the power to be a totally different story from what is seen in Mexican cinema. The film not only seeks to entertain, but also forces you to take a stand”, stated Bernardo.
“There is a whole discourse about natural or professional actors where the essential difference is the tone they can give you, but both are doing a work of fiction. In this case, the majority are people who live in or near the area where we film. With Angel it had to be different because he had to learn more dialogues as well as the proper study of casters that I personally introduced him to. For this reason, it works that he has certain tables so that he becomes a kind of guide for others and a good relationship with others will be created, ”reflected the director.
Another influence that is perceived in snake’s paradise it’s that of the western, especially Leone’s style of making the prophet a sort of nameless man motivated by faith instead of revenge. “Certainly Sergio (Leone) was one of the references. For this reason, the horizon and the way of capturing it were fundamental in all the framings, since it is infinite in the film and it is noticeable from the close-up where it is potentiated. The close ups also turn out to be very powerful for the narrative that highlights the confrontations and the harshness of the rare pandemic that they are facing in the town, offering a unique aesthetic,” Arellano mentioned.
“The landscape is yet another narrative element that becomes important as the film progresses and I always wanted to say something with it. There is a state of mind that arises with it, he is always transmitting a feeling towards the viewer, seeking to generate something very his own that is not related to any other project.”, explained the filmmaker, since certainly that desert and the illusion of the remoteness of the town give it that fantastic tint.
Added to this, there is also black and white photography, an element that, for Bernardo, was always fundamental in the story. “It is a factor that takes us out of the usual reality. It is an element of this fantastic cinema that the film proposes and that served to, from the outset, take the image towards something timeless that had those overtones of the classic western together with that struggle between the spiritual and the material, between light and darkness.. It is part of that dialectic in constant confrontation that it proposes, between that fine line between life and death and what happens to the protagonists, creating a ying and yang within this mystical world”, he explained.
Speaking of the mysticism that surrounds the film, Arellano stated: “We rescued that part from Mexican traditions because the life of the prophet, the protagonist, is like that of the miracle worker who is everywhere. Here there is even a rather interesting allegory to the life of Jesus of Nazareth that we release, in addition to various purely ‘magical’ elements that are released throughout the film, once again exhibiting those issues of faith, the need for religions, the existence of shamanism or of the said paradise itself to which we aspire”.
Before this stands another interesting meditation on the meaning of that reptile that appears in the title and has a fundamental part in the film: the snake. “That is another very particular part because it is normally associated with evil, as something poisonous or malignant, but here it takes on another approach, since it works as the guardian, that key that opens the Pandora’s Box of faith. Contrasting those thoughts and connotations certainly seems very interesting to me,” Arellano said.
Within the same realization there were some curious facts that the director revealed and that give the film a more special touch. “When casting, we asked everyone if they had seen or been touched by a miracle, to which Garnica and Sky, her co-star, said yes. That was definitely a great starting point to be able to work with them. In addition, the Priest in the film is that of the community itself, he volunteered to do this project that in some way served to question his faith in the Church. It was very interesting to be able to build something with it”, he confessed.
Within a panorama in which the stories in film and television focus more on social denunciation or on the harsh violent reality of the country, Arellano advocates risky proposals such as snake’s paradise. “Mexican cinema is full of hyper-realistic material and it seems that there is not much room for this type of fantastic cinema.. This is a proposal that immerses us in it in a poetic way and takes us to the opposite extreme of what we usually see in film and television. We know that stories of social justice or migration exist, but for those of us who want to escape and have a reflection on another, more spiritual level, we cannot find any options and I believe that this film, which can be enjoyed by anyone and is not aimed at a reduced individual or intellectual , has that great achievement of offering something different aesthetically and narratively”, he asserted.
Concluding the talk, Bernardo Arellano said: “Paradise is, in some way, finding yourself and your faith and depositing it in what you most desire. It is something very internal that I think the film also manages to capture and it has a lot to do with the imagination that each one has. This is how each one finds their own paradise or perhaps their hell because everything has its counterpart ”, he closed.
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Bernardo Arellano and his reflection on faith in ‘El paraíso de la serpiente’