Set in the late 19th century, Sorcery (2023) – directed by Christopher Murray – feels like an exercise in traveling back in time to understand the colonial oppression of the indigenous people living in Chile, South America. However, it transcends the tale of mere resistance against colonialism by urging its audience to put their faith in the world of natural magic that the Huilliche put their trust into.

It is a perfect conversation-starter movie about the atrocities faced by indigenous people, preparing you for Killers of the Flower Moon (2023), which will be released later this year. It promises to satisfy you with the nuance around the idea of revenge it manifests. But, if you have watched the movie and are left curious about what really happens in the end, we’ve got you covered below. SPOILERS AHEAD!

Sorcery (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

The film opens by showing us Rosa (played by Valentina Véliz Caileo) going about her business. She walks towards the house of Mr Stefan (played by Sebastian Hülk), one of the German settlers in the land, where she works as a house help. She prepares a meal for the family and leaves the room when everyone assembles so that they can offer a prayer before starting their meal. 13-year-old Rosa, who has converted to Christianity to be able to gel well with the new German settlers, prays along with the family from the next room but is interrupted when she distractedly peeps through the curtain to find all of Mr Stefan’s sheep fallen on the group, dead or dying. They run out into the field and discover a mysterious braid of twigs around one of the dying sheep.

At the same time, Rosa’s father (played by Francisco Nuñez) arrives at the spot. Angered by such a daring act of resistance against the settlers, Mr. Stefan quickly jumps to the conclusion that it is the indigenous people of the land who are responsible for this chilling act of cruelty and sets out to punish Rosa’s father (because he represents the people of the land) for the same.

In front of young Rosa’s eyes and deaf to her pleadings, he sets out his wild dogs after Rosa’s father, injuring the latter to death. We see a grief-stricken Rosa left sobbing beside her father’s body and later buries him in a small plot of land in the woods. But Rosa is angry and desperate to punish the perpetrators of this heinous treatment towards her father. She takes her complaint to the village mayor (also a settler) but to no avail. He instead warns her about already having lost a parent and calling for more trouble.

Rosa takes refuge in a church, where the priest who offers her food also asks her to look within herself to seek revenge for the injustice meted out to her father. He further re-directs her to a person he knows whom she can stay with, Mateo (played by Daniel Antivilo).

Mateo is a grumpy old man, and Rosa helps him fish on the nearby coast. He also appreciates her knife skills and asks her to sell the fish he catches. Together, they visit Rosa’s father’s grave, where Mateo and Rosa offer different kinds of prayers. Later that evening, Rosa is awakened by the chirping of a swarm of birds flying overhead their shanty.

She follows them to the nearby woods, where she discovers Mateo and a bunch of other indigenous people gather in secrecy. She follows them to the spot, and once they disappear, she waits for them to come out again. However, a naked woman emerges from the place, wearing the same kind of twig braids around her body, and this woman spots Rosa watching her.

In the next scene, we find Rosa and Mateo back at the beach, fishing, when Rosa asks Mateo why the dead sheep had those braided twigs and tells him that the dead sheep was the reason her father was killed. Mateo protests; he tells her that Rosa’s father died because the German settlers do not care for the lives of the indigenous people. Afterward, Rosa tries to kill herself by drowning herself in the ocean. But Mateo saves her and promises to help her avenge her father’s death.

Sometime later, she meets a woman named Aurora (played by Neddiel Muñoz Millalonco). She is the same person she had seen in the woods. Aurora takes Rosa to her cottage, and Rosa discovers that she is a witch and is actively involved in witchcraft. She tells Rosa about the story of her land, which follows:

When no one alive at the current time was born yet, a Spaniard named Moraleda arrived at the land. He was a sorcerer. He asked to be brought to the most powerful machi, but a Chilpila showed up, who was so Indian that her skin was almost blue. They kept transforming themselves into animals bigger than each other until Moraleda transformed into the biggest animal possible and was about to win the contest when Chilpila moved her hands and made the Spaniard’s ships burst like the insides of a whale.

This forced the sorcerer to give away his book of magic to the Indian woman and thus came into existence La Recta Provincia. Aurora further tells Rosa that the members of La Recta Provincia took all the spells vital for them to defend themselves against outside forces from the book of the sorcerer.

Next, we see that Mr Stefan’s sons have gone missing. Instead, his wife finds two dogs sitting on her sons’ beds. The German settlers set out in search of the two children. But they quickly realize that the indigenous people are responsible for this strange occurrence. They, in fact, also suspect that the indigenous people were notorious for turning human beings into dogs, sometimes taking the form of dogs themselves. The following day, Mateo and a few other men believed to belong to La Recta Provincia are arrested by the police on the land and tried at a court.

The court declares them to be a bunch of criminals who have been terrorizing the land with their dealings in foreign elements under code names, performing executions and poisonings in exchange for payment. Mateo is hostile to the Mayor, refusing to accept their involvement while the Mayor tries to force them to confess. Later, Rosa visits Mateo in prison, expressing her desire to help him in some manner.

He asks her to leave the land and burn his house down, telling her that she should be lucky that she was affiliated with the Christian faith and acknowledges that he is part of La Recta Provincia. She explores Mateo’s residence before burning it down. Still, she decides to stay on and lend whatever help is possible from her end when she witnesses Mateo and the others being brutally tortured by the German settlers at the beach.

Sorcery (2023) Movie Ending Explained
A still from Sorcery (2023)

She follows the witch through the forest to participate in what looks like a coming-of-age ritual among the land’s indigenous people to induct Rosa into La Recta Provincia. This ritual involves Rosa walking through the waters of a waterfall to reach an island and enter a cave to find papery human skin. Soon after, strange things started to happen among the German settlers. Later, Rosa seeks shelter from a downpour in the house of the town’s mayor and comes across his pregnant wife and the idol of the Virgin Mary, but her intentions are unclear. Is Rosa going to practice witchcraft to help her people? The ending of Sorcery (2023) will leave you thinking about the powers of the natural world.

What is the film Sorcery (2023) about?

At its heart, Sorcery (2023) is about the anti-colonial struggle put forward by the indigenous people of Chile against the German settlers. The real clash, however, is between the religion that the German settlers chose to invest their faith in, i.e., Christianity, and the religion of the indigenous people, which is related to worshipping the natural order. This clash is expressed through the 13-year-old protagonist, Rosa, who is a Christian by baptism. However, faced with the bias of the settlers against her people, she slowly starts to believe in the force of the natural order. The film is a testament to her journey, hence becoming a coming-of-age tale in the process.

What is La Recta Provincia?

Aurora explains to Rosa that La Recta Provincia was a small group of indigenous people who saw to it that justice was meted out to the oppressed people of the land and the island, their home. She also narrates the story of how La Recta Provincia came into existence when, once upon a time, a sorcerer Spaniard lost a competition with a Chilpila, a woman so Indian that her skin was almost blue, and decided to leave behind his book of spells with them.

La Recta Provincia is believed to have learned all the spells from this book that they needed to defend themselves against the settlers. However, the story blurs the line between La Recta Provincia being just a group of indigenous people who can practice sorcery or it being the collective religion of all the indigenous people living in the land.

Sorcery (2023) Movie Ending Explained:

What Happens to Rosa in the End?

We see Rosa and Aurora in their hut, trying to get on with a ceremony where the human skin parchment found in the cave is tied to Rosa’s bare chest. But just before they can begin the process, the German settlers arrive at the spot, breaking in and arresting both of them. They are tried at the court, where, on being advised to speak, Aurora refuses to speak up, leaving only very vague answers.

Later, they are put in prison. Here, Mateo condemns Rosa for sticking around and tells her that she would also be led to her death, like the rest of them. She tells him that she is a witch now and has been to the cave on the island, which Aurora confirms. Mateo is visibly distressed by Rosa’s involvement in the affairs of La Recta Provincia.

Soon after, the mayor’s wife discovers during her sleep that her pregnant belly has turned blue-black, almost as if an infection had suddenly spread through her womb. The mayor visits Mateo in prison, tells them that his wife is infected, and wishes them to help him. After initial protests from Mateo, Rosa volunteers to help deliver a healthy baby for the mayor. She succeeds, and the mayor thanks her for the help.

Mr. Stefan and his wife visit the newborn baby and, through their actions, remind the mayor that the kindness of the indigenous people should not work in their favor in a court of law. Soon after, the mayor declares that the captive members of La Recta Provincia are to face the firing squad as soon as the decree is signed because the skin discovered from them is believed to belong to one of Mr Stefan’s missing children, in accordance with the evidence they submitted. This enrages the indigenous people present at the court. Rosa even calls the mayor a traitor!

Inside the prison, Mateo asks for Rosa’s help to prepare something for the pain he will soon face. He instructs Rosa to take some herbs from his pouch, put them in her mouth, and later feed them to him with water. He proposes that she could act as a knife and promises to shelter her. Mateo’s affection towards Rosa is fatherly, and their final exchange hints at the bond they have developed over time.

It is morning, and the circling (and dying) birds signal that La Recta Provincia is performing one of their rituals again. Mateo is lying on the floor, and Rosa is seen using a knife to tear open his skin. The chantings begin. Soon, we see Rosa lying on the floor with Mateo’s skin on her torso. A wild black dog is seen making its way into the mayor’s house, threatening to kill the wife and the child. The mayor arrives at the spot and immediately catches the hint. He comes back to the prison and frees all the captive indigenous people.

Rosa returns to her father’s grave. She had initially marked the spot with a makeshift cross made from a pair of sticks since she was indoctrinated into Christianity. But she is now seen removing the cross and lying down next to his grave. She whispers her prayers into the tree’s bark, just like Mateo did when they visited the grave together. Moreover, she is seen talking to two wild dogs, addressing them as the songs of Mr. Stefan.

This signifies that Rosa is willing to embrace her indigenous identity and support the people of the land against the German settlers and is aware that the sorcery simultaneously turned Mr. Stefan’s children into wild dogs. The idea is further driven home when Rosa participates in the Indigenous People’s Court of La Recta Provincia in the final scene, where she sings the people’s song and pledges allegiance to them and the natural world around them.

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Sorcery (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
Sorcery (2023) Movie Cast: Valentina Véliz
Sorcery (2023) Movie Genre: Adventure/Fantasy, Runtime: 1h 41m

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