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Post Tenebras Lux (Carlos Reygadas, 2012)

September 21, 2012

Post Tenebras Lux sure is a strange beast. Nobody liked it, neither the critics nor the public. And I guess they weren’t supposed to. I haven’t quite made my mind up yet. Surely while watching it you’ll find yourself thinking “what the fuck” over and over again, but maybe, weeks later on, thinking about it, you’ll start seeing the overall picture, and feel how strong it is.

It’s difficult talking about this without spoiling the atmosphere. Also, there is no actual plot. Or better, there are some hints along the way, but nothing really coherent can be told.
The movie is strange not only on its narrative side but in its aesthetics as well. The format chosen is surely not popular nowadays (aspect ratio is 1,37:1), and the image itself is anything but conventional. While the center of the shot is clear and definite, the edges of the image are blurry, refracted, sometimes doubled. This expedient gives the entire film a strange atmosphere, dark, foggy, in a certain way evil. As in, even when what you are seeing is just a nice little girl running around in a field, you can feel that something is not right. And that feeling permeates every second of the movie. The scenes alternate between the what you can call normal ones and the real weird ones, which, even if I’d like to, I won’t talk about, to avoid spoiling the surprise. After some time even the normal scenes won’t seem so normal anymore. The power of Post Tenebras Lux is in its aggressiveness towards the viewers. But let’s be clear, I don’t think Reygadas deliberately wanted to annoy or attack the audience. But I perceived the film as some sort of thick venomous cloud, that surrounds you, hot and suffocating. The exasperated use of wide-angles deforms everything, like in a twisted mirror chamber, for the entire duration of the film, and the effect soon becomes asphyxiating. Some features of Reygadas’ previous works are still here, but mashed up and twisted in a nightmarish mixture. An emblematic scene is the one that takes place in a sauna/sex club, where red, deformed, sweating bodies are aligned along the walls like cattle in a slaughterhouse. The highly hallucinatory atmosphere is rendered weirder since the grotesque bodies performing like animals speak in a polite and gentle way. And this is just one of the most normal scenes.

Nobody can deny that this is by far Reygadas’ most personal work. The choice of using his own children to act in the movie is not casual. The result is a sort of dark amateur home movie, due to its closeness to the characters and the intimate approach. On the background, many stories unfold, some of them more developed, others just hinted. The contrast between rich and poor, represented by the protagonists’ family and the other villagers, workers etc. might look like the main plot, but it really isn’t. Reygadas already treated this topic with the wonderful Batalla en el Cielo. Here we have something more subtle. An impending apocalypse that doesn’t spare nobody and manifests itself in numerous ways and involves many different characters.

Sure it’s a weird movie, but I prefer imperfect experimental movies over conventional already seen ones. Reygadas is slowly departing from his initial influences (mainly Tarkovskij among the others) to search for something different. Post Tenebras Lux itself looks like a work in progress, a film that searches for its own meaning, if there is one. I don’t ask for meaning nor I pretend it. This film won’t leave you indifferent, and that’s enough for me.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 14, 2013 5:09 pm

    post tenebras lux – great movie. I have just written about it (but in polish 🙂 – “requiem for a dream, which doesn’t exist”


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