Vital Signs

Noble Savagery

The Emerald Forest was often discussed as the surprise film of the summer season. It is certainly that and perhaps more. Although Mr. Pallenberg's tribute to pristine nature suggests that yet another environmental evangelist walks the corridors of a Hollywood studio, the sheer visual beauty, exacting detail, and anthropological authenticity give this film a majesty rarely found in contemporary movies.

The plot, said to be based on a true story, is centered around the kidnapping of a young boy by an Amazonian tribe known as the Invisible People. The boy's father searches 10 years until he finds his son living and acculturated among the indigenes. In one sense, the film is a stale rehearsal of Nature striving to retain her dignity and innocence against the encroachment of Civilization. Technological advancement may be inexorable, but in this fable the ancient gods triumph. The chief of the Invisible People calls modernization "the end of the world." But where the world ends and where it begins is epiphenomenal, a condition determined by the eye of the beholder.

Nonetheless, the story is an insignificant backdrop for the Amazonian forest. Every detail of this lush forest presented in the film has the hint of verisimilitude. I watched each scene with perspiration on my brow even though I sat in an air-conditioned theater. The humidity in the Amazon montage is palpable. Each tribal ritual appears as...

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