Review: The Sacred Spirit

Written and directed by Chema García Ibarra, José Manuel and the other members of the ufology association Ovni-Levante meet weekly to exchange information about extraterrestrial messages and abductions. Julio, their leader, dies unexpectedly, leaving José Manuel as the only person who knows about the cosmic secret that could alter the human future. Starring: Nacho Fernández, Llum Arqués, Joanna Valverde, Rocío Ibáñez, José Ángel Asensio and Ainara Paredes.

With films surrounding UFO fanatics there’s a certain expectation of overtly quirky or bizarre behaviour, and while it does have a touch of that on display, The Sacred Spirit takes a much more understated route. The result of that choice is genuinely fascinating, it manages to hold that edge of oddity while slowly creating a creeping darkness. It’s deceptively grounded, coming across more akin to the tone of a family drama, and that choice of simplicity is so clever, giving itself the power to become unexpectedly devastating. The creativity of choosing the supernatural and extraterrestrial realm to tell this much larger story is brilliant. It progresses almost like a slow-burning mystery, playing on the naïve, modest qualities of its protagonist to keep you unsuspecting of its initially hidden layers, gradually giving you the clues to piece it together.

The way in which Chema García Ibarra reveals the depth and sadness with one key scene, where you don’t even see anything occur, is superb, again playing into that simplicity and giving you the pieces without needing to hand it to you on a platter. It’s genuinely heartbreaking, it’s that classic pacing of building your audience’s suspicions then handing them the last clue, leaving them speechless as they process the darker meaning. Its unassuming qualities are matched with Ibarra’s direction, the palette and cinematography are fairly muted, and it plays things out patiently. It’s never tempted to add unnecessary flash or special effects, which works incredibly well to drive home the odd qualities to its story with a sincerity rather than melodramatics or an overt style.

Nacho Fernández leads this story with such a humbled, genuine quality, it’s so easy to be taken in by his unassuming, stoic presence. His naivety gradually builds, creating a curious sympathy, guiding the story in a way that results in a harder-hitting destination. It’s an impressive achievement to create such a simple, everyday character, with a somewhat minimal personality, who still manages to capture your attention throughout. There’s also an interesting ensemble of characters in the background, again none of them go for anything too overt, they all have their quirks but don’t push them too far. They all present a small, open-minded yet fairly traditional community, which is another cog in the smooth running machine of this story.

The Sacred Spirit brilliantly uses a simple, unassuming style blended with extraterrestrial beliefs to create an unexpectedly devastating story. It’s slow-burning but paced out well, doesn’t overplay its hand with the odd elements to its story, remaining understated and deceptively earnest. This film is a fantastic example of how far successfully mixing genres can take a story.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯½ | 9/10

Available on Arrow Player from 15 April

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