Astral City: A Spiritual Journey is a Brazilian film from director Wagner de Assis that is based on the book Nosso Lar (Our Home) by Brazilian medium Chico Xavier as dictated through psychography by the spirit of Dr. André Luiz. Since this is a Brazilian film, the language spoken is Portuguese meaning this is a film you will have to read the subtitles for, which will unfortunately automatically disqualify it for many viewers.
The film, and book, tells the supposedly true story of Dr. André Luiz and his journey through the spirit world following the death of his physical human body. Even if you think that’s the stupidest idea ever, it’s all presented in a very detailed and believable manner that creates an enticing story. In fact, it’s quite similar in concept (life after death, spirit, reincarnation, etc.) with the book/film “What Dreams May Come” (although Nosso Lar came first).
Following his death, André finds himself in a place called Umbral, which is essentially a purgatory existence. It’s very dark and gloomy, and the “people” occupying this realm are quite unpleasant as you would imagine. There’s a lot of pain and suffering going on in Umbral, but it isn’t a hell like Catholics (which Luiz was) would expect. André catches a lot of grief here for being a suicide, i.e. a coward, even though he was a suicide in the way we think of the word (it’s explained in the film and actually does make sense).
After spending years in Umbral, though only a very brief part of the movie, André calls out and prays to God from deep within his soul for mercy and forgiveness, and he is subsequently saved by the being known as Clarêncio. Clarêncio takes Dr. Luiz to a spiritual colony known as Nosso Lar (“Our Home” in English), which is basically a spiritual Rio de Janeiro on top of a mountain above the Earth on a different dimension or plane. And yes, it’s just one of many such colonies around Earth.
Once in Our Home, André slowly begins to learn all about and accept the true reality of life; that we are spiritual beings and life on Earth is something we choose to do for different experiences and learning. Think of it as sort of the ultimate role playing game. He gets a job in Our Home, learns about reincarnation, and ultimately grows into a selfless entity during his spiritual awakening.
I’m not going to spoil anything further than those details. The majority of the movie takes place in the Astral City of Our Home, and it’s really something that you just need to see for yourself since telling you about it would just take away some of the fun. The afterlife in Our Home really is the big selling point of the movie, and it is indeed a wonderful place and the effects and visual of the city really is quite amazing.
The acting here is pretty good. I’m not familiar with any of the actors, but they all did good jobs considering the backdrop here was really the star of the film. This movie was one of, if the not the, largest film budgets in Brazilian film history, and that shows through. We American’s tend to think of bid budget as a lot of explosions and tons of fancy CGI, but there really isn’t any of that here. This is very much a feel good drama; there’s no violence here (for the most part, although you do get to see the effects of World War 2 from “the other side”), and really no action to speak of. But it works.
My biggest complaint here is that as a viewer you are given absolutely no reason whatsoever to feel for or connect to the main character throughout the first half of the film. The film makes heavy use of flashbacks to André’s life on Earth, and while it apparently follows the book very well (I haven’t read it, although I want/need to), I think it would have been a better service as a movie to start with André being a living human and then having him die and pick up with his journey as a spirit being. With that said, this is a Brazilian movie made for Brazilians. As such, it works as intended since Chico Xavier was and still is huge in Brazil, where most people would be familiar with his works and Nosso Lar. This was after all one of the biggest films in Brazilian history and one of the most anticipated, not to mention the fact that Brazil is home to the largest population of Spiritist on the planet.
All in all, Astral City is a great movie regardless of where you stand on the afterlife issue and reincarnation. It is spiritism, rooted in non-denominational Christianity (though representing all religions), but this is a feel good story people of all religious beliefs or lack-thereof can watch and appreciate. Chico Xavier never claimed to be anything more than the vessel in which messages were channeled through from spirits, as such he donated every penny made off of his more 400 plus books to charities and is still beloved in Brazil because of it.
This is getting four out of five stars from me; it’s a film that I highly recommend everyone watch even if you don’t like foreign films (or the ideas presented here). It’s just a great film. If you have an Amazon Prime account, you can view this right now for free on Amazon Prime Instant Videos on your PC, connected TV, Roku box, or Playstation 3. Otherwise, purchase the DVD and enjoy this movie. The official US trailer is included below.