TL;DR – A biopic that had a real chance of being something interesting that unfortunately could never quite stick the landing.
Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
For a while now in the evening before going to sleep I have been taking to watching a couple of episodes of Penn and Teller: Fool Us. Penn and Teller are American magicians and one of the many things they are known for is debunking a number of things including the techniques behind spiritualism and mentalism. It has been interesting getting little hints as to how some of these tricks are done, so when a biography of one of the key spiritualists in France dropped on Netflix I was really interested to see how it would go.
So to set the scene, it is the 1850s in Paris, France and Rivail (Leonardo Medeiros) is a professor and teacher. He is a man of reason of logic and takes deep offence when a priest bursts into his classroom to give the catechisms. The influence of Catholicism in the classroom is a deal-breaker for the teacher and he retires. Struggling to find work, he agrees to do some translating work and it is here that is he is drawn into the new fad exploding among the fringes and not so fringes of French society.
I have a feeling that this review is going to come off as negative, and there are
some good reasons for that, however, there were still some interesting moments.
To begin with, this is a film about a French spiritualist that is made in Brazil.
This gives the film an interesting twist and the intersection of Catholicism
and the law is something that I am sure has a lot of overlap between the two countries.
To go along with this, the film uses an interesting mix of sets, real old
buildings, and matte paintings to recreate Paris. There are also these really beautiful
moments between Rivail and his wife Gabi (Sandra Corveloni).
However, while it is clear that a lot of work has gone into this film it, unfortunately, lands like a thud at times. I think part of this is that the core narrative always feels like it is spinning in place and never really getting anywhere. There is a kernel of a good idea here exploring a person’s ‘Road to Damascus’ moment, how someone could go from being opposed to the very nature of the spiritual to being one of its chief proponents. But that moment is almost glossed over in favour of more of the exploration of the fallout than anything else.
This focus on the fallout means that the film goes from zero to preachy real fast as it uncritically explores the work of someone who started a major spiritual movement. There is a story here about the intersection of power, religion, capitalism, reason, science and the supernatural, the fraud and the true believer, but the film either spends time doing not a whole lot or conversely aiming for the bombastic. A good example of this is a suicide set to a piece of music that did not suit the importance of the situation. This film just jumps back and forth between these two extremes that you become checked out so even a book burning with someone watching in spirit form has no impact what so ever.
In the end, do we recommend Kardec? Unfortunately, I don’t think we really can. This had all the makings of a really interesting film but it feels like it never really coalesced together. What we got was a film that tonally jumped all over the place and didn’t really critically engage with its subject material.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow
Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV,
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Kardec
Directed by – Wagner de Assis
Written by – L.G. Bayão & Wagner de Assis
Based on – Kardec – A Biografia by Marcel Souto Maior.
Music by – Trevor Gureckis
Cinematography by – Nonato Estrela
Production/Distribution Companies – Conspiração Filmes, Sony & Netflix.
Starring – Leonardo Medeiros, Sandra Corveloni, Genésio de Barros, Guilherme Piva, Leonardo Fanco, Dalton Vigh, Charles Fricks, Julia Konrad, Júlia Svacinna, Letícia Braga, Louise D’Tuani & Christian Baltauss with João Barreto, Luiz Felipe Mello, Guida Vianna, Jayme des Cueto, Licurgo Espinola, Xando Graça & Lionel Fischer.
Rating – Australia: M;