I recently had the extreme pleasure of viewing a reviewing Agusti Villaronga’s immensely disturbing masterpiece In a Glass Cage, also from Cult Epics, so I very much looked forward to diving into another film from the celebrated Spanish filmmaker. Coming on the heels of In a Glass Cage, Moon Child (aka El niño de la luna) is a mystical fantasy film for adults, very loosely adapted from famed occultist Aleister Crowley’s 1923 novel of the same name. Following up such a masterful debut is a difficult task, so my expectations were certainly high, but admittedly tempered with doubt.
Featuring a much less straightforward story than Glass Cage, the film centers around the extraordinary 12-year-old David (Enrique Saldana), who learns about an ancient African prophecy predicting that a white boy will arrive to be their god. David believes that he is the chosen child and that destiny must be fulfilled at any cost. Because of his extrasensory perception, David is discovered and adopted by a treacherous scientific cult where extraordinary mental powers, such as moving objects with one's mind, are common.
After David's evaluation is completed, he learns that the cult intends to use the children they have adopted to conceive a child while the moon is carefully positioned above in order to create their own Moon Child. The impregnation ceremony goes as planned and David ends up befriending and escaping the fortress with the two selected parents, Georgina (Lisa Gerrard) and Edgar (David Sust). David believes Georgina to be his mother and begins an archetypal journey across two continents in order to escape the cult and fulfill his destiny as Child of the Moon.
All of this leads to a poetic and somewhat tragic ending, one that's hard to shake once the credits have rolled.
Villaronga directs with sheer confidence, utilizing a beautiful score by the band Dead Can Dance and gorgeous cinematography by Jaume Peracaula, who also lent his talents to In a Glass Cage, to craft this work of cinematic art. The filmmaker's ability to effortlessly build a unique and alluring atmosphere is immediately apparent, much like in his previously mentioned debut feature. Villaronga is obviously more concerned with creating a surreal, otherworldly experience for the viewer, as he uses the fugitive's journey as a platform to unleash his imagination, and the result is nothing short of remarkable.
The story, as odd as it may be, turns out to be fairly straightforward and grounded, though the film's visuals do dabble with surrealism at times. Moon Child's plot is elevated by solid performances from its cast. Young Enrique Saldana is surprisingly phenomenal in the lead role, especially with this being his first (and only) acting performance. Saldana succeeds in creating a likeable, somewhat mysterious, character out of David, pulling you right into the story with ease. Lisa Gerrard is also great here, giving an emotionally driven performance as the cult's impregnated lab rat, with this also being her one and only acting credit. Lucia Bosé and Maribel Martin are fantastic as the directress of the cult and one of the cult's agents who develops a bond with David, respectively. Martin's relationship with the young boy impairs her ability to carry-outs the cult's devious wishes, bringing a interesting duality to her role. David Sust also delivers strong supporting role.
Villaronga also gets the absolute most out of the film's modest budget with high quality set decor, costumes and the breathtaking, at times, unusual locations used certainly make Moon Child feel like a bigger production than it may have been.
My one and only gripe with the film lies within its vast scope and concept, which somewhat outshines the emotional connection I was able to develop with the characters, hindering its lasting impact. Though, I may have cursed myself by going into Moon Child expecting the same sorrow and disgust I felt during my viewing of In a Glass Cage. This isn't saying Moon Child isn't a worthwhile piece of cinema, Glass Cage just resonated with me in a more personal, ruin my day, kind of manner. And I don't mean that in a bad way. Regardless, this one is worth checking out if you're looking for something tremendously original.
Moon Child arrives from Cult Epics for the first time in the United States on Blu-ray and DVD. The film is presented in a new High Definition transfer from the original 35mm negatives and the looks rather impressive. Grain levels are healthy and well-managed, with strong detail throughout. Black levels are balanced and colors are organic and nicely saturated. There are no distracting damage marks or torn frames to report. The release features two audio options: Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. Optional English subtitles are provided for the main feature. The audio is crisp and clear, creating the perfect mix between the magnificently dark, ambient score from Dead Can Dance and the dialogue. It's worth noting that the 5.1 mix does seem to spread sound effects and the score a bit thin, the 2.0 track feels a little more authentic and presents the score with a bit more prominence. In the end, Cult Epics have done an exquisite job in presenting Moon Child.
Digging into the extras, we're treated to an interview with Agustí Villaronga who explains what inspired him to create Moon Child, and discusses the tone of the film, his collaborations with cinematographer Jaume Peracaula, Dead Can Dance's score and Lisa Gerard's contribution to the film. He brings up some of his other projects (99.9 and Born a King), plus meeting Guillermo del Toro who said he was a fan of Villaronga's films. The 15-minute interview was conducted exclusively for Cult Epics by Nico B. in Barcelona in 2018. There's an option to view the film with an isolated film score from Dead Can Dance. Cult Epics have isolated 32 tracks from the existing 35mm audio files and have presented them here as lossless tracks (with some audio effects). The extras are rounded out by trailers for Moon Child and In a Glass Cage, as well as a photo gallery that features a collection of lobby cards. The package also includes the film and mirrored special features on DVD.
Moon Child is a film unlike any other I've ever seen. It's a smorgasbord for the senses and an atmospheric treat for the mind, skillfully blending surrealism with elements of fantasy. This is undoubtedly a strange film, but it's not so far out there that you can't make heads or tails of it. If you're looking for something mystical and unique, somewhere along the lines of Alejandro Jodorowsky or even Dario Argento, look no further. This is another superb release from Cult Epics!
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Additionally, Cult Epic also recently released a 3-disc edition release of Moon Child, which includes a CD Soundtrack. You can order that version HERE.