Divinity, the latest creation from filmmaker Eddie Alcazar, is a mesmerizing and unconventional cinematic experience. Blending retrofuturistic science fiction elements with deep contemplation on the nature of masculinity, this black-and-white film captures your attention with its captivating and obscure genre musings. The plot is difficult to fully grasp on paper, but its enigmatic nature only adds to its allure. Prepare to be immersed in a world where inventor Jaxxon Pierce (played by Stephen Dorff) develops an immortality serum that alters the course of humanity, provoking the wrath of supernatural entities from an unknown realm. Divinity delves into the profound anxieties surrounding mortality in the modern era, presenting a thought-provoking narrative that may puzzle at times but is never dull. Furthermore, the film’s visual composition and unconventional storytelling techniques will leave you astounded, as it assembles images that you’ve never seen organized in such a remarkable manner.
The story unravels through a combination of archival footage featuring the late scientist Sterling Pierce (portrayed by Scott Bakula) and the present-day endeavors of his sons, Jaxxon and Rip (Michael O’Hearn). Sterling’s pursuit of synthesizing a chemical to halt aging serves as a crucial backdrop to the events that unfold decades later. Jaxxon and Rip successfully refine their father’s formula, known as “Divinity,” transforming it into a global phenomenon. However, pinpointing the exact time setting becomes challenging due to the film’s intentional fusion of design elements from various eras. Jaxxon’s lavishly designed home merges mid-century modern aesthetics with 1980s screens and glimpses of cutting-edge technology. This deliberate anachronism contributes to Divinity’s timeless atmosphere, which parallels the distinct missions of the two groups of otherworldly beings who exist within the narrative.
In an ethereal white void, a silent and stoic cult of women clad in matching bodysuits observe events happening on Earth. Led by their matriarch, Ziva (played by Bella Thorne), their discussions revolve around rescuing fertile women and incorporating them into their group, as the future depicted in Divinity has rendered most of humanity sterile. Ziva and her clan exude a benevolent aura akin to godlike beings, yet it remains uncertain whether they are human or some form of extraterrestrial or psychic entities, as their words seem to reverberate endlessly.
Meanwhile, in the vast desert surrounding Jaxxon’s secluded mansion, the arrival of two enigmatic brothers (Moises Arias and Jason Genao) is marked by meteor strikes. These brothers wear black vests, their eyes occasionally gleaming in unison, and their forearms adorned with intricate, gloved tattoos. Upon reaching Jaxxon’s residence, they stun him with Star Trek-inspired weapons and speak in cryptic riddles about the havoc he has caused or will cause, leaving the specifics deliberately vague. As their act of retribution, the enigmatic siblings subject Jaxxon to a constant and potent dose of his own chemicals, triggering a grotesque physical transformation that sharply highlights the disturbing aspects of male self-image and societal body standards.
However, when Nikita (portrayed by Karrueche Tran), a hired sex worker, unexpectedly arrives at Jaxxon’s door before his scheduled birthday celebration, the film takes an unexpected turn. It pivots from its partially formed sci-fi concepts to focus on the hedonistic pleasures of food, dance, and carnal desire. A mutual seduction ensues between Nikita and the mysterious brothers, blossoming into a profound and empathetic connection between them.
While Divinity may seem elusive at times, dismissing its approach as “style over substance” would overlook its true essence. Style, in this case, becomes the very essence of the film, with each grainy, high-contrast 16mm shot imbued with meaning and intention. Cinematographer Danny Hiele skillfully transforms every shadowy frame into a captivating mystery. The camera’s tremors and quivers distort the texture of simple scenes capturing revelry, as well as sweeping aerial shots of the surrounding landscape against an awe-inspiring night sky. This dreamlike visual style is further enhanced by the atmospheric music composed by DJ Muggs (of Cypress Hill fame) and Dean Hurley (known for his work on Twin Peaks).
Divinity is style as substance, with meaning and intent woven into each grainy, high-contrast 16mm composition.
Despite moments where the film risks becoming self-absorbed, its lo-fi flourishes ultimately transform it from a potentially pretentious arthouse endeavor into a delightful 86-minute homage to genre films of the past. The exhilarating climax, featuring intricate prosthetics and stop-motion wizardry, evokes the essence of a Twilight Zone episode that explores the concept of rebirth. Imagine if it were penned by a Rod Serling fueled by techno music and MDMA. Divinity is like attending a party where you may not know a single person, but the atmosphere simply pulsates with an irresistible vibe.