Monday, March 1, 2010

Silent Light 2007

This is an intense film full of meaningful silences, however the intensity is sipping through the pores. This silent light flooding over the austere land and illuminating its pale and quite people from within. A fictional story in an isolated Mennonite community in northern Mexico and performed by a cast of mostly Mennonite nonprofessionals the film was written, directed and somehow willed into unlikely existence by Carlos Reygadas. These people’s stoic existence feels so contrasting with the Mexican cultural landscape, but their passions are as immense as the horizon. 

The film’s entry is magnificent it projects a kind of sublime existence, in which the seemingly unmoored camera traces a downward arc across a nearly pitch-black night sky dotted with stars. Accompanied by an unsettling chorus of animal cries and screams, the camera descends into the brightening world and then, as if parting a curtain, moves through some trees onto a stage for the ensuing human drama.

The staging has a very strange rhythm it is quite and intense, like those you can cut with a knife. The story is about Johan (Cornelio Wall Fehr), a farmer with seven children and a devoted wife, Esther (the Canadian writer Miriam Toews), he has fallen in love with another woman, a neighbor, Marianne (Maria Pankratz). Though tormented by the affair, Johan feels that Marianne is his truer match, the woman who will correct the mistake he made by marrying Esther, whom he also loves and from whom he has, with tragic, unintended cruelty, hidden nothing.

Things continue between Johan and Marianne, in spite of the fact she wanted to break the relationship. One day while driving on a rainy day, Esther felt sick and asked Johan to let her out of the car, she runs into the field and weeps away her sorrow and dies. Later you know she had a heart attack. Johan is inundated with grief and guilt. The resolution of the film is beautiful and undefined in a sense that you don’t really know if she revives or not.

The movie is exquisite; full of deeply moving moments as well as surreal ones, for sure Carlos Reygadas is an extraordinary filmmaker. The movie received critical acclaim in Cannes when it debuted in 2007.

There are a handful of ways to understand the meaning of “Silent Light,” it could be an allusion to love, but this is also very much a film about that ordinary light that sometimes still passes through a camera and creates something divine. 

Written (in Plautdietsch, or Mennonite Low German, with English subtitles), director of photography, Alexis Zabe; edited by Natalia López; art director, Nohemi Gonzalez; produced by Mr. Reygadas and Jaime Romandia.

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