REVIEW: Post Tenebras Lux (2012)
Carlos Reygadas’ new film is a fractured look at the life of a wealthy Mexican architect, his family, and individuals in the community around him. The film begins with a small child happily splashing around a field during a rainstorm; surrounded by a pack of dogs and farm animals, and captured by extended shots which seem to move in and out of her point of view, we see night descend, and a growing sense of unease comes over the film, one that is not shaken until the credits roll.
The narrative continues through a disjointed and seemingly haphazard series of scenes, which take us through seemingly random points in the family’s life, punctuated by occasional scenes that seem to have no relation the family at all. Once you become used to the way the film is behaving, it becomes easier to create a chronology of the depicted events, yet the plot seems absent of any major events that you would normally find in a more mainstream film: the family go to the beach, spend time at home, family arguments etc. This is not a criticism: the film envelops you through its cinematography and use of emphasizing diegetic sounds to create a film-going experience that is unlike any other, even those of Reygadas’ own films. The images are deliberately distorted around the edges of the frame, giving it a dreamlike quality, further removing the action from the realms of reality.
Reygadas seems to have taken a step further out of the already ambitious stylistic form that he was using and pushing his cinematic form to the limit. While his previous films (Japon , Battle in Heaven , and Silent Night ) had essentially chronological narratives, Post Tenebras Lux deliberately calls everything we see into question through the disrupting of the plot, showing events which cannot logically exist in the same chronology, and several jarringly anachronistic moments including a glow in the dark Devil visiting the family in the middle of the night.
While this all might sound like it is a criticism of the film, it is the exact opposite: I found the film to be one of the most engrossing and captivating films I have seen recently. It does certainly ask a lot of you as a spectator, you do have to work for your money, so this film may not be for everyone. But if you enjoy films that pushes the boundaries of what cinema can offer, then you will not be disappointed.