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A primitive forest-dwelling tribe undergoes a startling transformation when they come upon a deserted mansion in this absurdist, Buñuel-inspired allegory.
Inspired by The Exterminating Angel but running Buñuel's civilization-to-barbarity scenario in reverse, Savages is one of Ivory's most intriguing and uncharacteristic films. Beginning like a fake anthropological film with intertitled black-and-white footage, Savages purports to be a record of the habits of the "Mud People," a primitive forest-dwelling tribe clad in furs and fronds. However, their simple existence is disrupted by the inexplicable appearance of a croquet ball in their midst. Following the strange sphere to its source, the tribe discovers a lavish, deserted mansion, and the film switches to colour as the "savages" throw on evening clothes, develop language and become haughty, insufferable, backbiting urban sophisticates, all within the space of twenty-four hours. A wittily absurdist allegory, Savages offers an amusing, premature response to the spate of Merchant Ivory manor-house dramas to come.