Silent Light

"Essential"

Silent Light Review


In September 2007, New York art rock outfit the Dirty Projectors released Rise Above, a conceptual cover record consisting of 90 percent of the songs on Damaged, the legendary album from punk godfathers Black Flag, redeployed as skittering indie anthems. The result was something closer to Paul Simon jamming with the Pixies than the power-chord chug many might have anticipated. What was once mainlined aggression and teenage angst now transmogrified into jabbering hysteria and lilting nostalgia.

Similar is the transformation given to Carl Theodor Dreyer's Ordet in Carlos Reygadas' Silent Light, the third and most powerful film so far from the Mexican enfant terrible. Filmed in a Mennonite community in Mexico and the first Plautdietsch film to ever be made, Reygadas' picture takes Dreyer's stoic religious parable and incubates it in a tale of infidelity amongst the most devoted of people. The Mennonite non-actor cast is used, in the strictest Bressonian sense, as models rather than actors that wander about Reygadas' heavily-spiritual, nature-heavy imagery. What emerges is something completely unexpected and unclassifiable: part ethnological study, part spiritual-crisis drama, and part passion play.

While likely to be berated for its pretentious and artsy sensibilities, Silent Light actually ends up being the director's most straightforward affair and certainly his least obviously risqué feature. Against a disillusioned suicide case (Japón) or the frustrated driver for a Mexican general (Battle in Heaven), the grievously-conflicted Johan (Cornelio Wall) registers as nearly innocuous. He goes about his tasks for the day in his pick-up truck, so excited to be seeing his mistress Marianne (Maria Pankratz) that he does a happy dance when he stops to chat with some friends at a farm supply shop. Father of six and son of a preacher man, Johan takes the implications of his affair with Marianne on his wife Esther (Miriam Toews) quite seriously, so much so that he erupts into a fit of tears early in the film as his family leaves for the day.

What weighs completely on the film is the feeling of encompassing transcendence: life itself as holy act. The film itself is one that is based, both aesthetically and narratively, intrinsically on ritual, whether that of the daily or religious. The film's breathtaking bookends, consisting of the camera swooping down from the night sky into a breaking dawn amongst fertile trees and a primal nature scheme, is only the most showy of Reygadas' grasps at the beyond. Even when taking in the black-garbed attendees at the funeral that closes Light, there is a sense of preparation for those very same ends.

In a film of such eerie calm, even the most minor of things seems perverse. The central tragedy happens in a stretch of skeletal trees amongst fog and rain, somewhere that seems equally representative of God and the Devil. Things as minor as a bizarre French singer's elongated number on television and the act of the family bathing in a small shaded pool are scenes of such striking bewilderment that the cumulative strangeness of Reygadas' work may simply seep into you at first before it completely wallops you.

Though Dreyer's style and narrative sense hang over Silent Light like a tattered halo, it is the final act that completely cribs from the master. Struck dead by incommunicable grief and loss of faith, Esther lies in an open pine box at film's end with a praying Johan by her side. The miracle that concludes the film is the very same that concludes Ordet but where Dreyer's gothic visions were embryonic in their power, Reygadas' sunlit act of faith is as expansive as it is enveloping. The result is an object so elementally based in pure cinema that one might call it, well, miraculous.

Aka Stellet licht.



Silent Light

Facts and Figures

Run time: 136 mins

In Theaters: Friday 12th October 2007

Distributed by: Bac Films

Production compaines: Mantarraya Producciones, No Dream Cinema, Motel Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Fresh: 9 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Carlos Reygadas

Producer: Carlos Reygadas, Jaime Romandia

Starring: Elizabeth Fehr as Madre, Jacobo Klassen as Zacarias, Maria Pankratz as Marianne, Miriam Toews as Esther, Cornelio Wall as Johan, Peter Wall as Padre

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

An unusually realistic teen movie, this drama gets deep under the skin of its characters,...

Bleed for This Movie Review

Bleed for This Movie Review

This is such a ripping true story that it can't help but grab hold of...

Moana Movie Review

Moana Movie Review

In a clear echo of Frozen, this Disney animated adventure centres on a fiercely independent...

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

The 2003 comedy Bad Santa is a holiday classic that skilfully mixes gross-out humour with...

Allied Movie Review

Allied Movie Review

There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a...

A United Kingdom Movie Review

A United Kingdom Movie Review

Based on a powerful true story from the late 1940s, this drama is packed with...

Indignation Movie Review

Indignation Movie Review

Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain...

Advertisement
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

It's been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and J.K. Rowling has been...

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Yet another bonkers thriller starring Nicolas Cage, this trashy crime comedy comes from director Paul...

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

"Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall" is a DVD...

Arrival Movie Review

Arrival Movie Review

This sci-fi drama has an enjoyably brain-bending plot that leaves the audience almost stunned with...

Elle Movie Review

Elle Movie Review

There's a boldly comical tone to this outrageous thriller that can't help but unnerve audiences...

100 Streets Movie Review

100 Streets Movie Review

A multi-strand drama set in London, this film is very nicely shot and acted, but...

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

It's been seven years since designer Tom Ford made a splash with his award-winning writing-directing...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.