Film review: The Sacred Spirit (Chema García Ibarra, 2021)

I’m a collector of UFO-themed movies, or stories that relate to this particular subject. I have them all, more or less — from the cheapest exploitation to the biggest budgets. I enjoy most of them tremendously. The theme of extraterrestrial creatures, ultra dimensional beings, ufo cults and so on triggers my imagination, and it’s fun for someone like me who is pretty well versed in the subject to spot references, inspirations and other kinds of clues from where the filmmaker is coming from.

The Sacred Spirit came to me without reading any reviews, watching trailers or something like that. The cover to Arrow Video’s blu-ray showed up somewhere, I read the blurb on the back and felt that this is a movie I need in my collection. It also happens to be Spanish, which always is a plus in my experience. Through calm, often static shots — the camera feels like an observer, a fly on the wall, The Sacred Spirit tells the story about José Manuel (Nacho Fernández), an Egyptian themed bar owner who on his spare time is a member of the UFO group OVNI Levante together with a couple of other misfits. The group is lead by veteran ufologist and contactee Julio (José Ángel Asensio), author of books and channeller of intergalactic messages. It’s all weird and quirky, but in the background the story about a lost child is lurking. It’s one of the twin daughters of José’s sister, and she’s been missing for a month. When Julio unexpectedly dies of a heart attack, OVNI Levante is left with José as its leader. From there things turn pretty sinister…

The cover of Arrow’s release is pretty misleading. It’s easy to expect a synthwave sci-fi thriller, think something from the mind of Panos Cosmatos, Mandy and Beyond the Black Rainbow, but this is a low key, extremely ordinary and almost like a stylish documentary regarding the visuals. Hardly any handheld shots, it’s more like a Roy Andersson film but without the constructed sets and forced acting. The acting is so suppressed most of the characters feel numb and with lack of emotions, but it’s also to balance up the fact that almost everyone is deep into new age, religious UFO belief, spiritualism and a naive view on the world. It’s not bashing the supernatural (which is clear in reference to a vision a psychic lady has, which later turns true), but it presents a critical view on brainless belief and submission to those who claim to hold the truth. The characters seem to know what they’re doing, on their path to enlightenment — but are hopelessly lost in a web of new age cultism.

At a leisurely, almost sedative, pace the story unfolds in some truly disturbing ways, and we as the observers — can’t do shit about it. It’s horrifying, but never scary — but deeply uncomfortable to see things happen the way they do. There’s one single moment of joy in The Sacred Spirit, a final adventure before a very important day. For once the characters show some kind of happiness, and maybe that’s for the best, considering what’s about to happen.

The Sacred Spirit is not an easy movie to deal with — especially afterwards. I felt sadness, sadness for the unrelenting search for artificial happiness, new age as a sinister tool for control and deceit. But make no mistake, it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long, long time. It stayed with after the credits, and will continue so for a long time.

Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer, researcher and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of three books. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats. Join him on Twitter and Instagram.

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