Review by Cole Groth
Divinity is a cinematic journey that thrives on style, boldly embracing abstraction and allegory. It's a visual masterpiece, an ethereal monochromatic daydream that captivates with its unique approach to storytelling. At the same time, it may come across as somewhat pretentious, but its brevity and brisk pacing work to its advantage, complemented by striking cinematography and performances that are difficult to put into words. To put it plainly, this will divide viewers.
I won’t be able to do justice to the plot of Divinity. Its bizarre storytelling methods, from writer-director Eddie Alcazar, will confound the average viewer. In a desolate and futuristic world, a scientist (Scott Bakula) had created a groundbreaking serum — called "Divinity" — that allows immortality. After his death, his son (Stephen Dorff) took over his empire. Unsurprisingly, this drug took over the world, leading to society’s collapse. After two brothers (Moises Arias and Jason Genao) kidnap the son, they go on a journey to bring down the power Divinity holds over the world.
Alcazar’s audacious embrace of abstract storytelling and allegorical elements creates a captivating, dreamlike experience that's impossible to ignore. It’s endlessly fascinating in presentation, but suffers from being too difficult to unpack. This is one of those movies where the vibe is more important than the specific story points. I’d have to watch this at least two more times before I could confidently outline the story. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily.
The cast of Divinity delivers performances that feel almost otherworldly, as if emerged from the pages of a graphic novel. Stephen Dorff, Scott Bakula, Moises Arias, Jason Benao, Karrueche Tran, Bella Thorne, and Emily Willis (known for her adult film work, but making her feature debut here) all play delightfully complex characters. Each one feels particularly inhuman in a great way, serving as symbols that point toward a deeper social commentary aimed at society's insatiable appetite for the unattainable, no matter the cost.
Shot in a beautiful black-and-white wasteland, this is a fantastic experience for the senses. Cinematographer Danny Hiele — whose work consists of music videos for Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, and other famous musicians — has created something visually stunning that you won’t be able to look away. It also sports terrific sound design and moves quickly enough to be continually stimulating. At times, it’s easy to get lost in the visuals. While the story left me far behind at many points, it’s easy enough to sit back and absorb the fantastic shots. Toward the end, as the film ramps up the craziness, there’s this stop-motion animation sequence that takes the viewing experience and ramps it up to eleven.
Even if you can’t piece together Divinity’s story, it’s undeniably one of the coolest movies of the year. At only 88 minutes long, this is an easy way for somebody to get into the world of avant-garde filmmaking. It’s full of body horror, sex, and drugs. Anybody looking for something weird as hell will find a great new movie in this.
Divinity releases in theaters on October 13.