Photo Credit: sumerianrecords and utopiamovies

Sundance Film Festival 2023 Review: Divinity

Writer-director Eddie Alcazar crafts a real indie gem with Divinity. Distorted versions of reality, B-movie homages, black and white cinematography, and stop motion meets live action – it is a smorgasbord of stylistic and thematic treats. Divinity is sheer delicious arthouse fare.

Set in an otherworldly future, businessman and scientist Jaxxon Pierce (Stephen Dorff) aims to perfect and market his father’s formula for immortality. Yet the formula dubbed Divinity which sees its user’s muscle structure grow and them become immortal, comes with its own side-effects as seen when two unnamed strangers (Moises Arias, Jason Genao) descend from the skies and hold Jaxxon hostage. Perhaps punishment for this retro-futuristic consumerist society’s obsession with hedonistic gain?

Filmed with a luminous black and white glow from cinematographer Danny Hiele, Divinity packs an aesthetic that feels like a post-war vision of the future. Evocative desert settings, neo-futuristic sets and furniture that has an element of retro nostalgia about it, and hallucinogenic visuals that spring to mind classic LSD horror pictures. It’s a vision of the future but told through the lens of a different time period – a dated futuristic vision, which is ultimately a fascinating novelty in 2023. This description conjures up a sense of kitsch, but the beauty of Divinity should not be understated – it is a visually an impressive piece, told with a blend of nostalgic intrigue yet picturesque quality – particularly as the two alien brothers navigate the human landscape for the first time.

The strangers indulging in life’s pleasures for the first time, depicting two alien beings experiencing the most human of experiences and elements provides plenty of thematic food for thought – particularly as humans seek shortcuts to perfection with Divinity. Alcazar vibrantly depicts their first encounters with textures, physical pleasures, tastes and flavours, and aesthetic joys – allowing us as viewers to experience this sensory depth and reconnect with the human experience ourselves.

Whilst the brothers experience life’s joys, Jaxxon depicts the harsh chemical changes and grotesque physical transformations of non-natural substances, with the imperfect Divinity formula supplied to him in extreme doses. This brings in some elements of bold horror aesthetics – with particular credit due to Divinity’s bold make-up and physical costuming designs. Dorff brings an urgency and panic to the role of the narcissistic scientist meets businessman. The latter of these allows Alcazar to bring in some elements of capitalist consumerist propaganda to the fold – with the marketing materials selling the life changing perks of Divinity delivering a further anachronistic retro vibe to the fold.

Stop-motion contributions from Misha Klein help further bring a sci-fi twist to Divinity, expanding the distinctive appeal of this avant-garde sci-fi treat.

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