Tuesday, August 13, 2013
"Post Tenebras Lux" (Latin for "After Darkness, Light"): Carlos Reygadas spins his own "tree of life"
“Post Tenebras Lux” (Latin for “After Darkness, Light”), the latest feature by Mexican director Carlos Reygadas, created controversy, sometimes boos and catcalls, at Cannes and a few other festivals, but the film produces an interesting challenge: the notion of facing the end of the good life, a retreat into simplicity, and a preparation for the end.
Juan (Adolfo Jiminez Castro) has moved his family (including wife played by Nathalia Avecedo and small children) from European urban life in Brussels and London back to the Mexican countryside. During the film, and in somewhat random sequence and “stream of consciousness”, his wife and kids reflect not only on their new circumstances but the meaning of what they left behind, as they seem to wait for the end.
The film is shot in Dogme style (reminiscent of Lars Von Trier), and in the smallest 4:3 aspect ratio, and the images as blurred slightly on the edges, an effect that I found distracting; viewing with 3-D glasses (even on the computer) was helpful. This unorthodox technique is supposedly justified by the “canyon” effect desired in many of the outdoor scenes in Mexican mountain country. I think the film would have looked better going the opposite way, with full wide screen.
The film opens in silence, and black and white, but soon shifts to a full color sequence of a small child lost outside on ranchland among animals, and calling for her mother. Then we see an odd “red devil” sequence where an alien seems to enter the house. Is this reality, a dream, or an invasion that will explain Juan’s eventual demise?
We then see sequences of Juan’s glorious past life, starting oddly with a sequence in an AA meeting for his best friend, Silver (Willebaldo Torres). There some orgy scenes (they remind me of the Continental Baths in the 1970’s, and at least beg the question as to whether STD’s or AIDS could be part of the doom). There are also sports scenes involving a teen rugby team (with which the film will end). I recalled the rugby sequence at the end of the 1940s classic “A Canterbury Tale”. There is also family intimacy, which can be explicit. Juan and the other characters seem to be bisexual; the camera tends to emphasize the importance of the male in many scenes. As the film progresses, the sense of doom grows. Silver comes to an end in what looks like a rural home invasion. Then the family is facing Juan’s own departure. Near the end of the film, we see a bizarre sequence where Juan looks out on a forest and sees trees start to fall, but not just from a storm, but from some sort of evil presence.
The official Facebook is here. The official Mexican site has disappeared, but the phrase has an English site explaining the term here.