Ardor movie poster

Ardor poster

A contemplative western set in the Amazonian jungle, Pablo Fendrik’s Ardor is a strange hybrid that might confound quite a few spectators. When the movie opens we are told that locals sometime invoke spirits from the river to come protect them. We then see a shirtless Gael Garcia Bernal (Kai) come out of the jungle, this enigmatic figure arriving just in time to rescue a family of farmers who are being violently evicted by mercenaries.
From there we follow Kai and his new protege (Alice Braga) as they play a game of cat and mouse with the mercenaries which will climax in a bloody shootout.

What I found the most interesting about Ardor is how the filmmaker was able to bend genres to make an art film built on a formulaic Western structure. This is after all your classic story of farmers getting their land taken until a lone pistolero brings his vengeful justice. Whether he has the traits of John Wayne (The Sons of Katie Elder), Clint Eastwood (Pale Rider) or Franco Nero (Django) – among others – our hero usually has a menacing, enigmatic presence but here, this is the frail Gael Garcia (Y Tu Mamá También) who’s got the job to take on the bad guys. While this might initially look like a miscasting mistake, this is actually what makes Ardor stand out, proudly showing that what you’re watching is some kind of free form art rather than a formulaic work. Mr. Fendrink also adds mystical notes, mostly through Kai and an omnipresent jaguar, while giving his movie a contemplative look and meditative pace thanks to a great, naturalistic cinematography somewhat paying homage to the likes of Werner Herzog (Aguirre, the Wrath of God).

The classic elements that the writer/director borrows from action cinema are of course the final shootout and some fighting sequences in the forest. But, once again, he dares to mix it up, from elements reminiscent of First Blood to a wide variety of weapons including the classic cowboy’s Winchester rifle, a chainsaw, a machete and grenades. At this point, you might think you are in Robert Rodriguez territory (Machete) but Mr. Fendrink keeps his work serious, making it more baroque than parodic.

Of course, some might argue that this is a self-serious and flawed work and I certainly not disagree. The filmmaker isn’t able to keep Ardor cohesive as it – thematically – goes in too many directions from art to action and ecology. But to me, in that case, this anarchic narrative is what is appealing even if it’s not fully satisfying. Without comparing the Argentinian filmmaker to French cinema’s enfant terrible Jean-Luc Godard or to the crazy genius Alejandro Jodorowsky, I found the same taste for artistic freedom when it comes to diverting genre conventions – check what Mr. Godard did with music documentaries (Sympathy for the Devil) and film noir (Alphaville) and how Mr. Jodorowsky twisted Italian westerns (El Topo, Holy Mountain). Beautiful and eccentric, Ardor should appeal to a certain tribe of cinephiles.

Director: Pablo Fendrik – Actors: Gael García Bernal, Alice Braga – Running Time: 1:41 – Year: 2015 – Country: Argentina
Click here to watch the Ardor trailer
The following two tabs change content below.
Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.
Fred Thom

Latest posts by Fred Thom (see all)