Thursday, October 11, 2007

Batalla en el Cielo (Battle in Heaven)

A few months ago I was wondering about contemporary Mexican cinema as I was not able to find movies from Mexican directors telling Mexican stories and filmed in Mexico. Today the search is over, I found it finally and what a surprise!

My first film by Carlos Reygadas is one that will be in my mind for more time than what I’m willing to accept. Let’s start with the easy part. He is a great writer and storyteller. Never, never imagined that a kidnapping story could be told like this. Impressive! Yes, the movie tells the story of a kidnapping, a situation that’s quite common in Mexico and Mexico City where the story is set.

With mostly ordinary people characters that accurate reflect the majority of Mexican population, the characters move in quite ordinary situations, but the way the movie is constructed, the way the camera moves with long and medium shots, the extremely slow pace that allows you in this case to think what’s next or whatever in you head, and with great cinematography, this movie becomes one of the best Mexican movies I have seen and the hardest to watch because well, I’m sort of familiar with many things in the movie after spending several years in Mexico City and it is NOT an easy movie to watch.

Sometimes is easier to see in the screen things that you’re not familiar with. Seeing things that were part of your not so enjoyable everyday life well is not that pleasant. This movie showed me the route from work to home, while I was living in that city. In such a big city, what were the chances for filming there? One in a million or more. Have to admit that this distracted me a little, but the story and what I was seeing in the screen was more interesting and mesmerizing so I kept watching. Okay, is out of my system, now I can continue commenting about the movie.

If is not enough that the story is told in such a different way, then you have to consider that the narrative is scarce as this is a movie about images. Images that suggest being very carefully composed to look astounding and mesmerizing. And the camera stays still for many seconds for you to admire the incredible compositions that were created with the most ordinary elements.

The movie is very sexually explicit, but I find that each scene has a purpose within the movie; they are not placed just because you need sex. The movie opens with one very explicit sex scene and I wonder if the director intention was to shock and totally awake the audience. For a moment I was wondering what that was… but soon enough due to camera movements I started to be hypnotized and was totally grabbed into the picture. Of course, after seeing the whole movie I understood why he started there, that by the way is also the end of the movie.

The movie is full of symbols and some metaphors, which I believe are easy to understand with very little knowledge of Mexican society. Most have to do with politics, social class differences and religion. And if you have seen the movie and are wondering the reason for the title, according to Reygadas is a cynic title, as life in Mexico City is closer to hell than to heaven.

If you’re still reading you will notice that this movie REALLY hit me in many ways and if you have not realize it, I love it!!!! As one critic says and I totally agree “Art with a capital A. Don’t be afraid. Ok, be a little afraid”. Absolutely not for all audiences, you have to really like cutting-edge art movies, this one is extremely artful -if that exists-.

The movie was an official selection for the Palm D’Or at 2005 Cannes, was nominated for the Screen Intenational Award at 2005 European Film Awards and won the FIPRESCI Prize for Best Latin American Film at 2005 Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival.

Now I have to see Reygadas previous movie Japón (Japan) and his latest Stellet Licht (Silent Light) as I just discovered a writer/director that I will follow from now on.

Give it a try at your own risk.


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