Friday, April 25, 2008

Stellet Licht (Silent Light)

This is a very different Carlos Reygadas film, this is definitively the work of a much serene, mature and with an outstanding clarity director. I truly have problems reading about what critics’, cinephiles, and viewers have written and my only conclusion is that is a very personal film that each person will understand whatever they want not only about the story, but also about the film itself.

Thanks to the wonderful net I decided to read mostly Reygadas words and I was able to read him in several languages. His words gave a context to all my reactions while watching the film and to all my thoughts that come and go with questions, doubts, and assertions. I wish I could talk to him in person, but since that’s hard, I had my conversation with Reygadas through everything he’s been saying about this film.

Why some of us are capable of being mesmerized by slow images sequences with no dialogue, while others cannot stand that “nothing” is happening? Why some of us go wild when we find movies where everything –including people- in the screen becomes images that create compositions, while others see each element (background, set, people, sounds, music, etc) apart from each other and tend to follow whatever action is happening in the screen and if they do not find any action they are not able to see what else is there?

Those two questions are key for you to enjoy this movie; if you belong to the first part of the questions you will go crazy with this movie and if you belong to the second part of the questions you will fall asleep or get very restless and wont be able to endure this film.

See, there is a love story in the film, but as Reygadas says “I hate the idea that the film is actually telling a story” and personally I totally understand what he means. If you want to see this movie for the story, you will be totally disappointed as the story it tells could be told in perhaps 20 minutes and the movie version the DVD has lasts for a little more than 2 hours, in Cannes was even longer.

So to absolutely spoil the story for you I’m going to tell you what is all about. A Mennonite man struggles with his religious ways that totally forbid infidelity, as he loves his wife, but also loves his lover and knows that she’s the woman he has to be with. Recalls Carl Dreyer’s Ordet in many ways, one of which is the story resolution that ends with a miracle.

Why would I want to spoil the story when always I go out of the way to not give away stories? Well, because this film is one you have to see not for the story it tells but for the most amazing, incredible, outstanding and mesmerizing images that will provoke in you the most unbelievable emotions and reactions.

Just to mention one, the very beginning of the movie is one of the most incredible cinematic moments in movies and will just blow your mind, it did blow mine and I have to admit that I have been lucky enough to see many live and alike sunrises in my life. But no matter what you have seen in real life, you are not ready for this particular six-minute composition. It is breathtaking, magnificent and totally sets the mood to what follows, where images and image compositions predominate as is a very-very slow succession of one image after the other, with very long takes from regular and others not so common angles.

Real life Mennonites non-actors from different countries converge in Chihuahua to be in a real Mennonite community, all are part of the images compositions and the scarce dialogue they speak in Plautdietsch is in monotonous low voice; even when they express feelings, when they cry, they are poker faced and they belong to the image composition. This is just splendid! Which speaks a lot about the efforts that Reygadas had to do with non-actors and be sure to check the DVD extras to understand more what I’m trying to say here.

According to Reygadas the movie is not about Mennonites, he chose them because “I was intrigued by the beautiful dresses, the houses and the faces, I noticed that they were uniformly monolithic: there were no social or economic classes, pre-judgments about physical beauty, or anything like that. So I thought it would be like telling a children's story, like "Little Red Riding Hood" or something. I wanted archetypes. It's not a film about Mennonites. It's a film about people.” Still, I cannot help but being honest with you all, I knew very little about Mennonites (most knowledge comes from USA films that show us mostly the Amish sect) and I was absolutely intrigued when I saw them in the screen. Thanks to the DVD extras I also learned about Larry Towell Mennonite photos and after browsing the net, saw many of them and are just spectacular.

This has been a unique and overwhelming experience that I hope many of you serious cinema lovers could love it as much as I did. I had to wait almost a year to be able to see this movie, but never imagined that it would be like it was. Now I’m left wondering what would come next from Reygadas and I have no answer as seems that he could go in any different way, as he has done in his three films.

This is a multiple award-winning movie with many nominations and accolades just browse the blog and you’ll find some of them including the Jury Prize at the 2007 Cannes.

Yes I could go on and on about this movie but let me close by saying: Big Chapeau to Reygadas for allowing us to see transcendental visual poetry with the most outstanding Mexican surrealism I have ever seen, as this was a Mexican facet I didn’t know it exists and absolutely contrasts with Mexico reality… but, still it is geographical Mexico.

Not for all audiences, you have to like extraordinary art cinema.


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