Directed by Giulia Brazzale and Luca Immesi
During the opening credits of Ritual: A Psychomagic Story, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s name appears briefly onscreen, inspiring a certain amount of confidence in the film that’s about to transpire. The legendary director of El Topo and Holy Mountain does a quick ghost cameo and his novel “La Danza Della Realta” makes an even quicker appearance for absolutely no reason. I’m not sure of the connection and Jodorowsky’s involvement is almost as puzzling as some of the film’s choices, unfortunately.
Desiree Georgetti plays the subordinate Lia, a woman dominated by a sex-crazed egomaniac named Viktor (Ivan Franek) who exploits her current issues about sexuality. As a child staying with her eccentric aunt, Lia explores the grounds of a supposedly cursed church tied to an old legend about a hidden trunk inside its walls. With her therapist, she begins role playing as her younger self and as her aunt reliving the experience that is also tied into the first time she experiences her period. As a result of this connection, her womanhood feels cursed as well when she enters into her adult life.
The opening scenes of Lia being dominated are somewhat playful even though she already senses that something is very wrong. There’s a fine line between eroticism and absolute fear and the more Viktor reveals the rage inside him, the question changes from how far you would go to how far you would run. Turned on yet?
Viktor forces Lia to have an abortion, haunting her to the point where she attempts suicide in the bathtub. This prompts her to finally break away from Viktor and visit her aunt for the summer back where she grew up.
There’s a bizarre hallway sequence featuring Lia naked in the fetal position, writhing in a hallway which could represent the birthing process and how much she has regressed from the shock of the abortion and the domination of the winner of the award for World’s Worst Boyfriend. It’s melodramatic and only makes Lia look even more pathetic as a character. In fact, throughout the film she is fairly weak-minded and clueless making it difficult to root for her at all. What’s happening in her life doesn’t really warrant her behavior and anxiety.
Once she returns to her aunt’s property, she encounters two pixie children who seem harmless at first but, after reading Lia’s fortune, they warn her that she will end up in hell eventually. Lia also begins seeing what she thinks is a witch singing in the darkness, drifting about aimlessly much like the storyline. The witch is an extension of herself and her guilt at losing her child.
Her aunt, being somewhat of a healer, performs a rite to rid Lia of her pain – a rite that can only be completed once Viktor is vanquished. The power of suggestion is immense, and that idea becomes the central driving force of Ritual and the ritual becomes the only truly effective therapy for Lia.
Her aunt performs the rite by putting a fruit (substituting for a baby bump) in an old box that Lia buries. It’s anti-climactic and way too simplistic to be a centerpiece for the film but ties in again to the cursed trunk from earlier. Viktor personifies the real curse of Lia’s life and his involvement in the end is crucial. This is odd because he is never invited there and his presence seems unwanted even though the aunt seems to predict the couple’s fate through an egg rite she performs when Lia first arrives.
Ritual’s story is too simplistic with hints at a darker fantasy that never materializes. Also, Lia plays the victim but never really earns it. Why is she so tortured by all of this? It’s never adequately explained and the moments of horror are all mostly dream sequences shoehorned in just to be slightly disturbing and off-putting. The legend of the trunk and the cursed church is addressed to a certain extent but you’re really left filling in the blanks for yourself. The two kids that Lia interacts with have a connection to the legend and their true fate is revealed in a final shot that also seems forced in just to be creepy for creepy’s sake. Ultimately, it’s about a woman fighting to be at peace with Mother Nature again after ending the life inside her, but first she must rid herself of the evil, dominating man who wouldn’t be such a threat if the female lead had any backbone in the first place.
2 out of 5