Monday, 7 January 2008

Silent Light (2007, Mexico/France/Netherlands/Germany, Carlos Reygadas)

Much like 'The Banishment' (reviewed below), infidelity is the main theme of the latest Carlos Reygadas film, and much like the former, the acts of infidelity as less important (though they are shown here) than the implications of them, and the reactions of those involved. 'Silent Light' is set in a Mennonite community in North Mexico, a rather old fashioned and simple group of Christian Anabaptists, who speak a language known as Plautdietsch, a hybrid of German and Dutch (as this was where they emerged from). Reygadas focusses on the fallout one family faces when the father, Johan, commits adultery, and is torn between his family, to whom he is fiercely devoted, and his mistress, Marianne.

Whilst those he confides in consider it to be the devil's work, Johan realises that it is he who is weak, but he cannot help himself. The pain is too much either way, whether he tries to stay away from Marianne or whether he gives into temptation. Their relationship is equally shown to be sad as it is ecstatic, as if they are always aware of the implications of their adultery. Whilst Johan is open with his wife, Esther about everything, he probably doesn't understand that she won't accept it. Privately, we see her desperately upset, even though she keeps up appearances in public. The consequences of this relationship take a distinctly tragic turn eventually.

Though I've not seen Reygadas' two previous films, Japon and Battle in Heaven, much is made of the director's open and explicit attitude towards filming sex and nudity, and he doesn't shy way from things here, though I suspect it is filmed far less sensationally as the sexual scenes of his previous films reportedly are. When he films them making love, his camera is always held on Marianne's face to discover her reactions, and never Johan's. Reygadas also is a master of the long take, starting and ending with extended shots which run for several minutes, firstly of dusk turning to a pitch black night against the countryside backdrop, and secondly of this in reverse, of night turning to dawn. Contemplative and slow in pace, 'Silent Light' encourages patience, an stick with it because the film's denouement is literally miraculous (though it requires a massive suspension of disbelief). 3.5/5

No comments: