‘Divinity’ Is Like If Balenciaga Produced A Horror Film On the Moon [Sundance 2023 Review]

Divinity 568x320 - 'Divinity' Is Like If Balenciaga Produced A Horror Film On the Moon [Sundance 2023 Review]
Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Looking for a cure for mortality? Okay, same. Lucky for us, the world is about to get a taste of Divinity, a new black-and-white retrofuturistic foray into sci-fi experimentalism from Sundance alumni Eddie Alcazar. And the 2020s may just be the perfect time for Alcazar’s aggressively weird arthouse project to surface. Horror audiences seem to be actively craving bizarre and cerebral content louder than ever. And Divinity has it in spades. However, by the film’s halfway point, its weirdness starts to crumble under its own bulking heft.

This avant-garde parade of violence and nostalgia concerns Jaxxon, the son of a brilliant scientist who is progressing his father’s invention of an immortality serum to the point of no return. Stephen Dorff wears the mantel Jaxxon, who is kidnapped and held hostage in his own home by a pair of mysterious brothers (Moises Arias and Jason Genao), whose true intentions are unclear at first. The group is soon joined by sex worker Nikita (Karrueche Tran), who needs to decide who she can trust. Questions of “true immortality” are raised, and a barrage of hyper-violent, post-modern imagery gondolas our characters towards a conclusion so haphazard and bizarre that it begins to lose all meaning.

With that said, the stark, 1970s-style desert landscapes and mod mansion setting give audiences enough reason to stare at the screen for at least forty minutes unfazed. Alcazar is an illusionist, and he mesmerizes his audience in a way that’s so unique it’ll jaunt them through space and time. This helps to keep us from feeling bored or completely lost in the surreal nature of his storytelling, at least until the third act, that is.

There’s something about Divinity that almost feels like a retro blockbuster, which is a little absurd because the budget is low, and the arthouse sensibilities are through the roof. Still, for most of the film, none of this matters, and it all feels much larger than it really is. It’s like peeking through a kaleidoscope into a room twice its size. Nothing makes sense, and it’s worth celebrating. The ever-expanding raisin loaf of a retrofuturist world suits the totally bizarre James Bond-level stakes that are at hand.

The black and white cinematography here frames the sets and the actors with the nervousness of German expressionism, with lengthy shadows and angles sharp enough to take an eye out. There’s beauty in Divinity to spare, and that includes its cast, all of who exert raw and high-art sexual confidence. Moises Arias and Jason Genao play brothers, both named Star, who carry such intense magnetism, it’s almost impossible to keep track of their objectives or emotions. But they’re just so impossible not to watch. However, it’s Karrueche Tran who steals the film as Nikitia, a professional in the field of ultra pleasure. She’s capable, bold and burns with the star power of a red dwarf. I can’t wait to see more of her in the future.

Sundance has historically been a prominent launching pad for dark, weird and generally difficult-to-describe narratives. Divinity is doing its best to dance with the devil on the moon, crafting bizarre images to feed the children and folding in healthy doses of societal commentary to earn its bizarre keep. But by the second half of this rough ride in the hay, the weird-to-social-commentary ratio begins to tilt, and it loses its identity in the beautiful nonsense.


‘Divinity’ is a stunning retrofuturistic foray into sci-fi experimentalism that eventually loses itself in the beautiful nonsense.

Tags: Divinity Sundance 2023

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