The Mayan jungle and the local myth of a femme fatale known as Xtabay give form and meaning to this suspenseful Mexican mystery. Most viewers will have to take to Google to grasp the connections between Xtabay and Agnes in Tragic Jungle (Selva Trágica). But even without fully understanding the myth or the historical and geographical setting, and despite Agnes's lack of spoken lines, there are enough clues to convey that all is not as it appears with the mysterious woman. The actors comprising the excellent, expressive male cast have more to work with, as the true nature of each of them must inevitably rise to the surface in the face of temptation and conflict.
This story is more wretched than tragic, and it unfolds slowly and deliberately. The life of man and woman -- especially here and then -- was indeed nasty, brutish, and short, but the majestic jungle endures. It can't have been easy to shoot this film, but it pays off. The camera is placed at all kinds of interesting angles to capture the lush, disorientating, disconcerting setting. Animals small and large loom, their noises rising and falling on the wind. Crocodiles, tigers, monkeys, ants, and more lurk at every turn. Rain pours down out of nowhere. Fog settles on top of the river, making dawn and dusk indistinguishable. The jungle is a character unto itself, and it may be the most memorable aspect of the movie.