All ye desiring realism or direct reportage on Sri Lanka's bloody, decades-long civil war, abandon hope upon entering Vimukthi Jayasundara's fever dream about the conflict's wreckage. Not that anyone who'd seen his previous work, The Forsaken Land---in which neither steamy melodramatics nor Antonioni fixations could mask an undercurrent of social upheaval---was expecting polemics, exactly. But given that this follow-up puts the country's history of violence front and center, it's still shocking to see how Jayasundara comes at the subject: Street riots are punctuated by the absurdist sight of a man in a Mickey Mouse mask being beaten to death. A tranquil tangent involving a fairy tale about a king hiding in a hollow tree is reprised later in a terrifying real-world situation. Workers break into a Bollywood-like musical number before being massacred. The film's Virgil (Laknath) literally falls out of the sky as if he were an angel.
Flipping deftly between staggering beauty and scenes out of a Bosch painting, the fantastic and the frightening, Jayasundara's free-form, horror-poetic approach cuts deeper than a mere re-creation of actual wartime tragedies. Even in its goofiest moments (and rare missteps), there's an anguish over what's been left in the aftermath of one long, brutal era. The movie is a waking nightmare. It's also unmissable.