Sunday, February 22, 2009

Muriels: Best Picture, 28th Place

Silent Light (39 points/3 votes)

“Carlos Reygadas's Silent Light has been talked about as though it's a major change of pace for the talented Mexican auteur. This stance is frankly nonsense. There's little stylistically in Silent Light that hasn't already been a part of Reygadas's repertoire. The only thing that's different is that Carlos has finally made the smart move he should have made from film one: He's cast his lot with recognizable human beings.

“That's the thing: his particular idiom - the ascetic rigor of Bresson interwoven into the grandiose melodrama of Griffith - demands simplicity. His project, thus far, has been an attempt to highlight the potential poetry of the mundane, and while his previous works have had isolated moments of beauty, there's very little mundanity to be found while in the company of teenage hookers or disemboweled horse corpses. The true progress of Silent Light, then, is the paring-away of the awkward sensationalism that marred Japon and Battle in Heaven. What is left behind is less "interesting" but far more pure and true.

“It's this purity that gives the film its force. From its justly-celebrated opening shot, in which a sunrise is elevated through patient duration and expressive framing into something like the creation of the world, Reygadas is clearly striving to express a larger truth. The choice of milieu (a Mennonite community) is all too appropriate; in its quieter 'everyday life' moments, such as the lengthy sequence where a group of children are being bathed in a river by their parents or the delicate, crushing scene near the beginning where the family's patriarch silently breaks down in tears at the breakfast table, the careful pacing and beautifully austere craftsmanship Reygadas brings to the table gives Silent Light an air of the sacred. In this context, the more extravagant, overtly melodramatic touches (a lens-flare explosion at the moment of a kiss, a revelation of infidelity in the midst of a torrential rainstorm) feel like ruptures in the natural order of things. The emotional impact is overwhelming.

“And did I mention how stinking gorgeous this thing is? Every shot is composed with a painterly grace and burnished until the glow leaps off the screen and buries itself in your corneas. It's an extraordinary film, a fulfillment of the promise that Reygadas has displayed prior to now. If it's revelatory, it's only in the sense that it's revealing what we should have seen coming all along. The sun rises, the sun sets and we see the miraculous hiding inside the everyday. All is grace.” ~ Steven Carlson

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