Monday, October 23, 2017

Jungle (2017)

This one belongs to both the not-so-bright thrill-seeker and Amazonian mis-adventure sub-genres.

Far superior examples of the latter being 2015’s Embrace of the Serpent and further back, Werner Herzog’s masterful Fitzcaraldo and Aguirre, The Wrath of God.

As for the former category, we saw recently with 6 Below: Miracle on the Mountain just how difficult it can be to become fully invested in the survival prospects of an individual that so clearly has himself entirely to blame for his predicament.

I’m also consistently peeved with films supposedly set in South America which have not actually been shot anywhere near their stated locations. (The worst offender of recent times? Snatched.) Jungle for example, was largely filmed in Queensland with a few additional short scenes shot in towns just outside Bogotá i.e. not darkest Bolivia.

The movie opens with the promise of ‘This is a true story’; preferred to the more fingers-crossed-behind-back alternative of ‘Based on true events’. And the thing is that major elements of the story as presented have indeed been fictionalised, or at least carefully, though not always skillfully, distorted.

Radcliffe’s Ghinsberg is depicted as the hapless victim of a scam artist in La Paz, yet according to his Wikipedia bio he was obsessed with Henri Charrière’s Papillon long before arriving in South America and was actively seeking the ‘rainforest immersion experience’.

Still, the film has some poignant moments, mostly courtesy of Joel Jackson as Marcus and in particular of Alex Russell as Kevin. Not Daniel Radcliffe though, whose presence and cod Israeli accent I could generally have done without.

There were some nostalgia-inducing reminders of my own formative rainforest immersion experiences in the late 80s — such as the sense of being in a bit over one’s head and the constant overlay of the actual environment with one’s own fantastical interpretation of it. 

I also recalled that in these sort of expeditions it is very easy to become both manipulated by and manipulative of one's fellow travellers.

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