POST TENEBRAS LUX
(AFTER DARKNESS, LIGHT)
France, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands 2012
Directed by: Carlos Reygadas
Running Time: 120 minutes
No rewarding gaze goes unpunished. Carlos Reygadas won the Best Director prize at Cannes 2012 for this mercilessly sensual lucid dream walk through the wetlands, hills and forests of Morelos, Mexico. A marginalized Güero (fair complexioned) family struggles to stay together amidst a surreal, mostly Moreno (dark complexioned) backdrop. Prosaic episodes are extracted from the fractured, visually distorted memories of the film’s characters. Mysterious panoramas of rosy twilights play out alongside flinch-inducing cruelties that are both banal and jarring, but never visceral.
This puncturing interplay is underscored by the sight of hooves and cleats stamping on plasmatic, muddy terrain; electric blue flashes of lightning casting crackling silhouettes into distance; pink-skyed sunsets going lavender, transmuting the sight of stampeding beasts into shadow. Reygadas’ images are assaultively dense in what Roland Barthes termed the punctum, the wounding element of a photograph that lends it persistence in the mind’s eye. And while studium, the cultural or political element, is at risk of being overwhelmed by Reygadas’ searing visual surfaces, it’s nevertheless present in his class conscious conjuring of its character’s wildly varying existential targets and his vulgar commentaries on art and philosophy. Watch for the mention of Duchamp and Hegel in a rare moment of naked levity. Like Terrence Malick, Reygadas has the uncommon ability to approach cliché with a sense of torsion that makes it palatable. “I always hurt the ones I love most,” bemoans the film’s pater familias. Of all its autobiographical inroads, one wonders if this isn’t Reygadas’ most essential statement, qualifying his relation to the images he produces and his audience – a sympathetic demon with a toolbox of irrevocable visions.
Reygadas is a self-professed disciple of Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky. And while his sense of tactility seems positively Tarkovskian, Reygadas splits with Tarkovsky’s notion of nature as the site of desire. When a tree falls in Reygadas’ woods, we see only contingency from its arboreal neighbors, not dread. One flashback scene recalls the ineffable boatride of SUNRISE: A SONG OF TWO HUMANS (Murnau, 1927) as a small vessel pushes through dense beds of reed. Reygadas said of this unsettling film, “reason will intervene as little as possible, like an expressionist painting.”
28 June 2013