I took a lot of notes during my first viewing of Antero Alli‘s “To Dream of Falling Upwards.” They mentioned the dreamlike opening, in which a woman walks a labyrinth, sits in the middle, is visited by a hummingbird, then sees a vulture flying by before we get to see the vulture eating. It looks up from its meal, looks toward the camera just long enough for the viewer to be reminded of Egyptian depictions of vultures, then we’re cut into the interior of the Thelemic Temple of Horus (Fra. Matthew, Templi Magus), with a shot of an Egyptian image of Ptah in the foreground, and a white marble Buddhist Parinirvana statue on a mantel behind. The characters are panned in, narration starts, and … welcome to the dream.
Little symbols flicker in and out and relate to other ones later (for example, there’s a dragonfly that takes over for the hummingbird, then hummingbirds come back). Recurring themes from “Paratheater” link acting with magic, like the passage where two characters carry on a clown act, looking a lot like Commedia del’Arte, and one has colored poms down his costume that look like he’s clowning around with chakra yoga. There’s a perfectly natural reminder of chopping wood and carrying water.
I’m not going to belabor or spoil the main plot line for you. Let’s just say it starts with a family and magical-order tragedy, pulls off a great descent into madness, and lands you sort of on your feet again (watch for the return scene, where James Wagner gives us a real overview of coming back after being shattered, while riding in the back seat of a car — how many actors would have botched this!) . Along the way, it comments on magic, magical orders, depicts sex magic in a very realistic way, and drops the veteran mages into a deeper place than they had ever been with the help of a local bruja.
The only spot where I popped out of my viewer’s trance was when Jack Mason, needing to get rid of the interloper, decides to call a hit man. Then I could be heard muttering “What kind of puny magus are you, anyway? Do you not even have a copy of Picatrix?”
Antero’s cinematography is wonderful. You can watch for details in the background, strange textures, interesting plays of light, and other things that an attentive person would notice in “real life.” Dialog is natural and not overblown. The music composition and collection by Sylvi Alli is lush, rich, amazing when you notice it and enchanting when you don’t, and perfect in every way for this film.
My magical friends will all love this, as will anyone with eyes and ears for poetry. Allow time and space for absorbing this film and digesting it afterwards.
I assumed that you didn’t need me to tell you about Antero; to a magician my age, he’s been “a friend of the family” for a very long time. Do explore his website, though.
[Complimentary review copy from the auteur gratefully acknowledged, opinions my own, your mileage may vary, etc.]