Author Topic: Post Tenebras Lux  (Read 4141 times)

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Alexandro

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Post Tenebras Lux
« on: December 29, 2012, 12:34:05 AM »
+1
Trailer:

I couldn't find any worthy review of this Carlos Reygadas film in english so I translated one from spanish which treats it with the consideration it deserves. In the next post I'll give more of a personal opinion on the film.


POST TENEBRAS LUX by Alfonso Flores Durón

One of the indisputable figures in cinema's history has been russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. The value of his work is widely known in the world of film and mostly revered. But, also, with his analytical vision and capabilities, he shared his theories about the essence of this medium as an authentic artform in a prodigious book, “Sculpting Time”. In it, he gave shape to what he considered to be one of the fundamental pillars in the way to approach the creation of images in movement: “The duty of the director is to recreate life as it is, with it's movements, it's contradictions, it's dynamics and it's conflicts. He must reveal even to the last detail the truth of what he has seen, even if this truth is not accepted by everyone. An artist, obviously, can make mistakes, but even his own mistakes can be interesting as long as they are sincere, because they represent the reality of his inner world, his pilgrimage and his struggle with the outside world...Every debate about that which can or cannot be shown to the public is a vulgar and immoral attempt to distort the truth”...”If our reality”, he added, “our complete days are composed of what happens to us, but equally what we dream, imagine, remember, crave, form hypothesis about, a genuinely real cinema is that which creates life for the screen with all that complexity.”

All of Tarkovsky's filmography adheres to that principle. It's evident Carlos Reygadas intends to inscribe Post Tenebras Lux in this tradition. He has done so with boldness and, to great measure, with fortune. At this stage of cinema's history, wether a film is or isn't accessible is a consideration that should have been left behind; at least in terms of auteur cinema and, beyond sympathies and phobias, it would be mean to deny that title to Reygadas. Hence, Post Tenebras Lux should not be observed, or analyzed, from it's capacity to be digested. It's definitely a film that should be felt by whoever watches it, and it is because of this that it demands the spectator's identification; not necessarily by recognizing himself in the sequences or vignettes, imagined or remembered by the director and put on screen, but definitely in terms of the spectator recognizing that the series of events planted before his eyes and ears keep a similarity with the way in which he conceives his own life.

What results implausible is not understanding what happens in Post Tenebras Lux, but that in 2012 there are still people who have so much trouble assimilating it, particularly among the specialized european critical community. Back with Tarkovsky, and keeping the notable differences between the russian and the mexican director (that to an extent could be illustrated not only in talent but also with the internal richness of each one), in the now ancient 1975 he conceived a major work, “The Mirror”, which contained crucial fragments of the protagonist's life (in this case, charged with intense autobiographical traits), which vividly remembered his childhood, reconstructed episodes in the life of his mother, his father, inserted events generated by his imagination, and even recovered critical moments in the history of Russia, up to the Spanish Civil War, but above all, shared the intimate sentiments that all of that created within him. Just in 2012, thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul won the Cannes Golden Palm with a wonderful film, “Uncle Boonme who can recall his past lives”, which also makes use of superimpositions in time and space, delicate episodes from Thailand history, metaphors on the progression of cinema, parallel lives and transmigrating of souls, among other transcendental matters. Both films elegantly string together, sequence by sequence, with extreme coherence, unique stories told in the way that each one demanded.

Post Tenebras Lux, then, is not in a strict sense, a wholly original film. It clearly drinks from both waters, although excluding the poetic factor in them; what cannot be haggled to his director, Carlos Reygadas, is the courage to plunge into a project of this complexity. Very few directors are willing to edify a film without the orthodox narrative, or using structural patterns easily recognizable as a safety net. Reygadas, in his own style, has allowed us, likewise, to be invited to know a part of his life, and a great part of his mind. His most recent film, I insist, perhaps not completely original, is decisively personal; perhaps the one which permits us the most to know him as a person and as an artist.

I have read and listened some people claim with simpleton crudeness, that the film is like a puzzle that the audience must put together. There are films deliberately built that way (Code Unknown, by Haneke, is an example). Films aiming for this are cerebral. Nothing farther from Post Tenebras Lux, which is a film that aims much more toward the senses, the emotional and affective reception, than to reason, not that reason is completely excluded from the component. And in any case, for those obsessed with understanding it, with receiving clues, there are enough of them. If your interest is to unravel a plot, there is one; and is not even that hidden.

SPOILERS

In this, his fourth film, yes, Reygadas actually tells a story, pretty simple, by the way: a bourgeoisie family composed by Juan, the father (Jiménez Castro), Natalia, the mother (Acevedo), the kid (Eleazar Reygadas) and the girl (Rut Reygadas) has just left the city to live in a cozy and spacious country house in the middle of mountains that are as beautiful as intimidating. They try to establish close relationships with the humble locals, despite the enormous differences between them. Juan suffers irrational attacks of violence that he directs at his favorite dog and, the marriage, despite having two young children and all the apparent ingredients for happiness, is showing signs of damage; impatience and lack of fulfillment plagues both of them, particularly Natalia. On the eve of a trip to the beach, in which Juan has high hopes of fomenting the healing of day to day friction and accumulated unhappiness, something occurs (inserted in the most barbaric aspect of the class struggles) which pulverizes the longings of family recomposition. In so many words, that's the plot, but in no way is that the crucial aspect of the film. What makes it transcend is the way in which Reygadas complements it with a variety of sequences that integrate memories and other mind games: dreams, desires, projections of a craved future that never comes to be and, of course, also fears. It doesn't really matter to distinguish which is which, even though the age of the children, or Juan's haircuts can leave those clues that some people look for. The substance comes from the way the director reconciles each one with the other, and the result is  mostly satisfactory. Life with it's pleasures, fears, reasons and incoherences, beats in Reygadas's film as it does in reality.

END  OF SPOILERS

Another element that creates confusion has to do with the technical aspect of the film. Many have felt a certain discomfort with the director's decision to use a lens that distorts the borders of the screen, duplicating fragments of the image. But he does that only in exterior sequences, where people are usually more vulnerable and where is easier that even the light falling  deforms what we see. It's a resource (the distorter lens) that another russian, Alexandr Sokurov, with other intentions and results, has used in sensational films like “Mother and Son” (1997), and recently in the awarded and also polemic “Faust” (2011).

SPOILERS

The presence in two sequences (one at the beginning and one at the end, even giving the structure a kind of circularity) of an animated devil, visually related with a more endowed Pink Panther than the participants in the orgiastic sequence in the sauna (imagined, remembered, desired? I say remembered, before the children, maternal in a twisted sense), also scares many, but for the wrong reasons. They find it difficult to explain themselves that evil, in any shape or form, wanders the houses of anyone, particularly those who have left him the door open. Apichatpong, again, in Uncle Boonme, represented a soul in sorrow as if it came from the planet of the apes. Reygadas uses resources that, on one hand have evident aesthetic intentions, and on the other represent choices that are clearly part of a personal discourse that tries to go beyond restrictive interpretations. It's essential to mention the importance of the sound design, so carefully constructed and crucial to appreciate the filmmaker's discourse. The sounds of the disturbing conclusion in the evocative initial sequence, or the trees falling, are particularly thunderous. And of course, the work of Alexis Zabe, who has been responsible of the cinematography in the director's last two films (both with the word “light” in the title).

END SPOILERS

More important than solving riddles, I think, is to review the recurring themes in the mexican filmmaker's career. The strong presence of nature (in it's diverse presentations: the woods, the river, the sea); at moments oppressive and disturbing, at others comforting, never impartial. The latent threat perceived at all times that at the slightest provocation violence will erupt, besides, intensely linked, in one of it's modalities, to the omnipresence of repressed  or even satisfied sexual desires. The dissatisfaction of western man, who despite being in possession of the ingredients to lead a full and happy life, never achieves this; his spiritual emptiness, his terrifying loneliness. Death as an unavoidable destiny, yes, but also as a lurking ghost. In this case, childlike innocence broken by adult perversions. The presence of religion as a rite, but also as a frame of moral reference. And distinctively, the acute social tension existing in Mexico between two societies that more than being separated by disparate levels of material richness, rise up and stand tall as two world views, almost irreconcilable one from the other, carving an abyss between them, and whose lack of mutual understanding often results in brutal violence, a decisive factor to understand the reality of our country.

SPOILERS AGAIN

Another distinctive element in Reygadas's films is his choice not to work with professional actors, but to use people that more than interpret, can be themselves on screen. And his search for that naturalism with bressonian colors – which is also recurring in Bruno Dumont – works for him during most of the film; it feels as if what we are seeing is real (the children's behavior, the discomfort in the couple's relationship, the christmas dinner, the visit to the sauna, the town's toast and, specially, charged with a great sense of humor, the meeting in the self help group) and that involves us more. However, that bet, as any other, implies risks, and in this case one of them translates in a fault, not a minor one. In the climatic sequence of the film, Juan, plagued by his imminent death, pronounces a monologue in which he recuperates some simple yet treasured memories of his childhood. But the camera, who is difficult to lie to, does not finish registering the gravity of what Juan's soul is experimenting. The substance of the moment falls apart, because it doesn't ring true that the soul of Jiménez Castro understands and even less so experiments the tribulations plaguing Juan.

END OF SPOILERS

Post Tenebras Lux is, unquestionably, a major film. And a major work, as Thomas Mann said, “is multifaceted, undefined, as life itself”. With virtues and faults, is a cutting edge film. Film that approaches the reality of man in a faithful and precise way. Film that is not only defiant but stimulating. No one in current mexican cinema comes near to present on the screen the complexity of life in the way that Reygadas does, who not only does not wait that simple contemplation presents the miracle that the camera and what happens in front of it solve the work of the director. Reygadas makes it clear that at all times is in strict control of what he decides to capture and later share with us. That said, I must recognize I still have reservations – and I'm not alone – about to what extent this is a filmmaker that, in his desire to stand out, supports himself on every step with the work of what others have done and proved – I have mentioned in this film some notorious references, particularly about structure; Dreyer's Ordet and some Bergman in Silent Light; clear patterns of Dumont in Battle of Heaven; Tarkosvky sequences in Japón and Silent Light – and to what extent we are seeing in his films what in this case we can appreciate in Post Tenebras Lux, is the genuine translation of the work of his instinct and intellect responding to what his mind, his soul presents him. By having as such close references those such transcendental masters, it could be happening to him (or not), in respect to them, (NEXT SENTENCE COULD BE A SPOILER) something similar to what happens with Jiménez Castro in the climatic sequence described in the last paragraph; it could be that his artistic light is clouded by shadows foreign to himself.

November 26, 2012.
http://www.enfilme.com/resenas/enpantalla/postenebraslux/

Ghostboy

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Re: Post Tenebras Lux
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2012, 12:51:34 AM »
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I'm really looking forward to this and hope it gets a US release of some sort at some point - I've never been able to see a Reygadas film on the big screen. I don't actually think Battle In Heaven is THAT good, but it's got so much going on that I love it all the same. And Silent Light is amazing. His short film for that anthology celebrating Mexico was really wonderful too.

I am reading very little about this one. I understand that it is formal and experimental and perhaps not as approachable as his others - but I'm excited all the same.

Alexandro

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Re: Post Tenebras Lux
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2012, 01:09:34 AM »
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I pretty much agree with the above review in it's main points, particularly in the critic's biggest objection to the film. However, I found PTL to be a liberating experience. It's always good to just plunge into a film that truly aims for greatness in the boldest of ways, and it's uncomfortable because you just know it's almost unbearably sincere.

I think that the film can be enjoyed purely in a sequence by sequence basis, because it really is beautiful and full of a sense of wonder and freedom. The initial sequence is a complete grabber, and during the film there are a bunch of powerful moments. But I do feel also, that is a much more straightforward thing visually, if not narratively.

The film opened in Mexico and lasted not more than three weeks in Mexico City and not even one week in Monterrey. I wanted to see it a second time and it was impossible. People left the theater pissed off, as if never in their whole lived have they heard of surrealism or Salvador Dalí or you know, anything other than standard narrative three act cinema...it's pretty disturbing to see people so numbed that they can't enjoy a film that kept them entertained and attentive for two hours, but that makes them feel betrayed because it doesn't tie up together as any other film around.

The booing in Cannes is pathetic in the sense that they can go and show any pice of shit there and the leave with an ovation but a truly risky film like this is treated with snark. Although in principle, booing at a film is fucking stupid.

About Reygadas himself, I didn't really liked his first two films but Silent Light, I think is a near masterpiece. And then I saw his short film for the mexican revolution movie "Revolución", he made a short called "this is my kingdom" which convinced me he's the most exciting filmmaker working in Mexico today. It's kind of a warm up to PTL, and I would advise all of you to try to find it somewhere and see it (not the entire "Revolución" but only that short film from his), it's fucking rock'n roll.

SPOILERS

I found very telling the visual language that bonds the initial sequence with the cows and the girl, in juxtaposition with a sequence in a christmas family dinner. The way the camera moves and follows the kids around is basically the same in both, and then it happens again in the sauna (to an extent). I think the main subject of the film is the lost innocence of childhood, which gets warped and destroyed by social structures that in the film take shape as marriage, family, status, etcetera...and in a very direct way, as a devil entering the adults room to work with his tools, leaving the kids alone, for the moment.

BB

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Re: Post Tenebras Lux
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2012, 01:34:06 AM »
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I think that the film can be enjoyed purely in a sequence by sequence basis

This is what I was trying to say in the other thread. I'll probably write more later.

jenkins

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Re: Post Tenebras Lux
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2012, 01:38:02 PM »
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A whole topic, nice. I def think it's worth reading what Alexandro posted (thanks for posting it, thanks for the translation Alexandro), I like how principled and serious Reygadas is as an artist, and I like how that infects people who write about him.

After the Cannes booing, this was the article that restored my enthusiasm:
http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/27/cannes-film-festival-loud-boos-dont-faze-carlos-reygadas/

Quote
Cannes has been good to you and important for your career. But based on the reactions last night, do you wonder if this is really the best environment for an adventurous filmmaker?

A.
Not in the short term, but it is in the long run, as long as there’s exposure and as long as some people like the film. People asked me today how can you have the [nerve] to do something like that, and I said, I know that if I like it, there will be some other people who like it. In the time of the Greeks, Seneca said, the better a piece of art, the more rejection it will receive in its moment — that’s a social law. I don’t know why people are so worried, like some of my distributors. I tell them don’t worry, who cares? This is positive; you should be honored.

Alexandro

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Re: Post Tenebras Lux
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2013, 10:52:13 AM »
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Yes, one of the reasons I posted that article in particular, is because of the way the author contextualizes the film going back to the auteur theory and the writings of Tarkovsky. When I saw the film at the theatre, when it ended people on the way out were pretty pissed off, spurting words like "horrible", "piece of shit", and "this made no sense whatsoever". On the way back home I told my girlfriend: "You would believe this people never heard of Dalí and surrealism and The Andalucian Dog...that was almost a hundred years ago!" It is amazing how childlike the film audience has become, completely alien and repellent to anything that doesn't resemble a traditional three act / hero's journey structure, but going soft on them, it can be understandable. But critics in Cannes? That is just truly disturbing. I had a hard time finding a review for this film that didn't treat it with contempt or that tried at least in some very thin way to understand it in the context of the history of cinema or the country that produced it.

Of course Reygadas has a point in that quote, because if you are pissing everyone off you must be doing something right. However, the critical response to this film (and others from other directors who are in the costume of get emotionally naked with their films like Gaspar Noe and Lars Von Trier, even PTA) makes me mistrust their whole operation.

Cloudy

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Re: Post Tenebras Lux
« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2013, 06:44:04 PM »
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Have any of you guys heard whether this will ever get a US release? Stellet Licht has taken over my consciousness for the past three days.

Alexandro, thank you for the translation.

Cloudy

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Re: Post Tenebras Lux
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2013, 01:32:54 PM »
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This opens in the U.S. May 1st.

http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/watch-2010-carlos-reygadas-short-this-is-my-kingdom-20130208?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

^also included in that link is one of Reygadas' shorts on revolution.

Ghostboy

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Re: Post Tenebras Lux
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2013, 04:16:51 PM »
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I saw it today and thought it was great. Everything Alexandro said.

wilder

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Re: Post Tenebras Lux
« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2013, 06:15:55 PM »
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Cloudy

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Re: Post Tenebras Lux
« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2013, 06:16:30 PM »
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Lucky bastard...I'm waiting impatiently for this one.

I want this poster:

wilder

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Re: Post Tenebras Lux
« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2013, 10:51:37 PM »
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Cloudy

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Re: Post Tenebras Lux
« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2013, 04:25:08 AM »
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WOW. WOW. No words for that trailer. Thank you.

Cloudy

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The Perineum Falcon

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Re: Post Tenebras Lux
« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2013, 09:40:46 AM »
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Thanks for posting that, Cloudy. I had no idea this was playing in my neck of the woods!
We often went to the cinema, the screen would light up and we would tremble, but also, increasingly often, Madeleine and I were disappointed. The images had dated, they jittered, and Marilyn Monroe had gotten terribly old. We were sad, this wasn't the film we had dreamed of, this wasn't the total film that we all carried around inside us, this film that we would have wanted to make, or, more secretly, no doubt, that we would have wanted to live.

 

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