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Sorcery (Film Review)

2 min read
A scene from Sorcery

Following the success of Venice Gold Lion nominated The Blind Christ, Chilean director Christopher Murray is back with the chilling fantasy drama Sorcery, generating just as much buzz. The film was a 2023 Sundance Grand Jury nominee, and winner of the 2024 Online Film Critics Award for Best Non-U.S. film, drawing comparisons to heavyweights The VVitch and Hereditary ahead of its screening at this year's .

Based on the real-life 19th-century witchcraft trials in Chile, Sorcery tells the story of Rosa (Valentina Véliz Caileo) and her father on the remote island of Chiloé. They work for a group of German settlers farming sheep and find themselves under intense scrutiny from their leader Stefan (Sebastian Hülk) when an entire field of lambs are killed. Following a confrontation, Rosa's father is killed and her appeals to the town's mayor for Stefan to be punished fall on deaf ears. With all hope lost, Rosa seeks help from indigenous island elder Mateo (Daniel Antivilo) and a powerful group of sorcerers to seek revenge on Stefan.

The VVitch comparison becomes evident almost immediately as Sorcery delves into the colonial horrors Indigenous people in Chile were subjected to, from Rosa's father's grim death to the unfathomable levels of cruelty other families endure. Her rejection of Christianity and reclamation of her roots is complex and stems from an immense trauma, one that Caileo explores with such nuance and depth she is sure to be a breakout star from her performance as Rosa. Her coming-of-age story is a painful one as she navigates the loss of her beloved father while consumed with rage with Sorcery taking many twists and turns as she seeks revenge against Stefan.

Sorcery is not simply a talk of revenge – one that is oh, so satisfying – but one of acceptance, self-discovery, and Rosa's realisation that she is not alone and does not need to define herself by the actions of her colonisers. Rosa's grudge against Stefan almost becomes secondary to her discovery of witchcraft and the sense of community and belonging she finally discovers in the greater narrative. Despite it's many narrative strands, Murray weaves them coherently with an enchanting attention to detail that brings the tale to life.

Sorcery is a dark fairytale of self-discovery that is sure to stick in viewers' minds and hearts long after viewing. The film explores supernatural elements, revenge, loss, grief, fractured and found families, belief, and so much more in a taut, thrilling package full of haunting imagery and captivating performances. The overlapping themes create a rich exploration of accepting one's roots and rejecting colonial occupation which comes with so many complex, contrasting feelings that add to the overall horror and catharsis of the film.

Sorcery will be released in UK cinemas on June 14.