Tragic Jungle, also known as Selva trágica, is a mystery drama film directed by Yulene Olaizola and stars Indira Rubie Andrewin, Gilberto Barraza, Mariano Tun Xool, and Eligio Meléndez, alongside other cast members.
Tragic Jungle’s first scene is a tree covered with hacked gashes all over it with the sound of machetes opening up other wounds in the background. The gashes look more like wounds than anything else – the red marks all over the bark feel like the trees have gone through a lot of pain and struggle. Does that say something about what’s to come? Maybe.
The Tragic Jungle Netflix description reads, “To escape an arranged marriage, a woman flees into the depths of the Mayan jungle, where untamed nature merges the human and the supernatural.”
However, running away does not turn out well for Agnes as a group of Mexican chicleros, who are working in the forest to collect gum, find and imprison her. Although the group’s leader, Ausencio, first orders his men to leave the woman alone, lustful eyes soon start to turn towards her as the days progress. However, unknown to the group, there’s something a little more complicated going on here.
Tragic Jungle reminded me of La Llorona. Just like the 2020 movie, this one too feels like watching a surreal dream unfold. It’s so beautifully shot and executed, the winner of which is the background score in my opinion. The subtle way in which you can hear it will make your skin crawl with dread and set the mood. Additionally, there’s almost next to no colour in the film other than that of the trees and nature. Everything is so incredibly muted, yet, it looks magical.
Although Agnes feels like their prisoner at first, it becomes a little too apparent that she might just be more than that. More often than not it feels like she’s complicit in their plans and then we get to hear of the Mayan myth of Xtabay, a femme fatale who lures men to their death. Agnes’s sexuality becomes a part of the myth of Xtabay as if to say that her sexuality is inherently demonic or destructive. The film doesn’t say that, but you get that distinct impression and will be able to weirdly relate to it since it is so rampant even now.
Agnes’s mysticism is the driving force of Tragic Jungle. Stuck at a place infested with men, you never feel like the situation is out of her control. It’s actually very creepy and Indira Rubie Andrewin shines in her portrayal of the protagonist. At no point do you feel like you’re following a character who is unable to take care of herself. It’s great stuff.
Tragic Jungle also focuses a lot of its energy on reiterating the relationship that man shares with nature. Whether it’s finding things to stay alive or in death – everything happens in nature and we all go back to it. The film talks about the inherent bond that we share with it – and thus, nature can take away and give as it pleases.
Additionally, we also realise that the men are very lost in the jungle in a bid to go over to the Mexican side. However, instead of focusing on the men’s ordeals or problems, we are almost always focused on Agnes. Director Yulene Olaizola makes sure to tell us that the men are falling right into nature’s, as well as Agnes’s, trap. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Just like the starting of the film, where the men hurt and assault the trees to get what they want, whether it be the Mexicans or the Englishmen, the men in this story think that they can use Agnes in whichever way they want to, whether it be sex or an arranged marriage. However, just like nature, Agnes is able to fight off every obstacle in her path and take away what she pleases, when she pleases.
Summing up: Tragic Jungle
Tragic Jungle is a layered and captivating film that will keep you ensnared and mystified throughout its runtime. However, this is a very slow film and those who are expecting traditional chills and thrills might just be very disappointed. This isn’t a film that gives you jumpscares, but you might just get quite a few goosebumps.
Tragic Jungle is streaming on Netflix.