MAGIC, MAGIC. Starring Juno Temple, Augustin Silva, Emily Browning, Michael Cera. Directed by Sebastien Silva. 80 minutes. Rated MA 15+ (Strong themes, sexual violence and coarse language).
Magic, Magic is a film by Chilean director Sebastien Silva who directed the atmospheric 2009 film, The Maid. Atmosphere is an important word for this director, who concentrates very much on atmosphere surrounding his characters.
In this case, the characters are generally a group of young adults, with some older local Chileans added in. The central character is Alicia, played by the British Juno Temple, a young woman who has not travelled outside the United States but has come with her cousin, Sarah (Emily Browning) and her Chilean friends. They are on holidays in the countryside, travelling to an island off the Chilean coast.
All seems normal enough except that Alicia is a nervous traveller, compounded by the fact that Sarah is called back to the United States to sit for an exam. This disconcerts Alicia but she is persuaded not to return home and to travel with the group to the island.
Augustin (Augustin Silva) is Sarah’s boyfriend and is considerate towards Alicia. His older sister (Catalina Sandino Moreno) is rather aloof and unwelcoming. The other character is a friend of Augustin, an American from a diplomatic or family, Brink (Michael Cera). He is a rather obnoxious character, pranks and jokes, with a sadistic touch.
However, the point of the film is Alicia’s mental deterioration on the island. Away from home and what she is used to, she feels alienated from the group, welcoming Sarah back from the United States, but unable to sleep, on tenterhooks, wandering away from the group. One major episode, long in this short-running film, is the challenge to Alicia to jump from a cliff, continually urged by the others, focusing on her delay and fear. Later, when things come to a head, the night, the darkness, strange experiences with animals, local traditional rituals, Alicia goes to the cliff again to jump.
The film stops rather than bringing the drama to a conclusion. It is over to the audience to speculate on Alicia’s future, what will happen to her in the short term with the others on the island, what will happen to her long-term.
Since the characters are not particularly engaging, some audiences will find it difficult to identify with them or warm to them. Rather, it is a film of atmosphere and observing Alicia and her mental collapse.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out November 28 2013.