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  • Writer's picturePerrin Faerch

Review: The Fever (2021)

Man’s connection with nature in the modern world is constantly twisting and turning as it either brings us closer to or further away from it. One such place that has an interesting relationship within the natural world is that of the Brazilian city of Manaus, located smack-dab in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. It’s a melting pot of western influences with its size expanding thanks to a flow of immigrant arrivals over hundreds of years and eventually the rubber boom of the late 1800s allowing for it to grow even faster. It’s a strange city that has its foot firmly placed in the natural world, with many of its indigenous population having to adapt to the modern landscape left behind by the ever hostile presence of colonization in the region.

Justino (Regis Myrupu) is one of these individuals struggling to find his place within an ever-growing world that continues to drown out his natural roots. Working as a security guard at the city’s harbour, Justino finds himself disconnected from not only the man-made world, but also finds himself retreating further away from his home both physically and spiritually. Working to barely make ends meet and put food on the table, his daughter is in the process of moving away to pursue a degree in medicine, further alienating him from a world evolving and changing around him as he tries to fit into the bigger picture.

We follow Justino in his daily routine. He clocks in, clocks out, gets off the bus, walks home, etc. One night though, on his walk home, he feels the presence of something lurking in the shadows of the jungle. This is when the fever of the title kicks in, pushing Justino down a path of forced self-reflection as this mysterious creature and fever continues to claim more victims.

The Fever could easily have been a gritty piece of drama about the struggles of said indigenous people trying to adapt to their rapidly changing surroundings, forcing them to have to make the move to the city in order to survive. But what it does is place proceedings within the realm of magic-realism. It incorporates the mythos and tales of Justino’s background, experiences and dreams within the very realities of Manaus’ seemingly unnatural existence within the vast jungle. He describes his dreams and relays stories of parallel realities with his brother. And although we aren’t shown these fantastical worlds and dream sequences, it somehow feels more natural than what is happening around Justino. It’s as if this mysterious creature in the jungle is beckoning for its people to return back home in an attempt to ward off the modern world’s expanding grip on nature. After all, it's Manaus’ existence that shouldn’t belong, an invasive species hell-bent on snuffing out any semblance of what was there before.

Maya Da-Rin’s direction is smart in how she portrays these messages of a concrete jungle’s overreaching hand on our natural world, most notably through sound design, visual cues and plot beats that has Justino grappling with the idea of needing to go back to his home deep within the forest - his true home. The opening moments of The Fever has us slowly tracking in on Justino as he stands on duty at work. The power of the Amazonian jungle buzzes and chatters as a wave of noise envelops both us and Justino. But as we draw in closer, the chorus of the jungle is overpowered by man - its language of steel and construction easily drowning out and effectively killing any signs of nature’s presence from ever existing. It’s a powerful aural metaphor as Justino can’t seem to stay within his natural environment without the invasive hand of colonization playing its part. He has been here for twenty-odd years, but it’s almost an unwinnable battle for him at this stage, with his brother and a racist co-worker continuously reminding him that he doesn’t belong here. This begs the question for not just Justino, but us as well: where do we truly belong?

Regis Myrupu as Justino feels so naturally disconnected from those around him, including his own family. He is an alien unsure of how to go about his chosen path as he loses sight of where he truly belongs, with the added complications of this fever pushing him towards where needs to belong. The plot clearly resonates with Myrupu as an increasing sadness begins to wash over him - confronting the situations of his past, present and future, ultimately forcing him to be the author of his own fate as the film paces towards its conclusion.

The Fever refuses to give us definitive answers, whether it be actually showing us these dreams he describes, or these magical worlds his brother talks about. Most of it is up for interpretation, and the ambiguity of a lot of these questions and answers might not please everyone’s palettes, especially those who prefer conclusive answers. But that’s part of the rewarding power of subjective interpretation within art. And that’s what The Fever does so well. It leaves discussions on the table for you to take in and interpret as you see fit.

Maya Da-Rin creates an effectively simple story of belonging and the oppressive man-made forces at play in keeping us from truly doing so. It’s a story that shouldn’t just resonate with the Desana natives of Brazil, but with all of us as we look to reclaim our connection within ourselves before we lose it entirely.

Where you can watch it: Most VOD platforms (USA, UK)

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