četvrtak, 19. rujna 2013.

Carlos Reygadas - Post Tenebras Lux (2012)

Film Poster of Post Tenebras Lux (2012)

Strahovi, žudnje i opsesije okruženi oblacima i šumom.
San je vrsta kamere.
Prizori distorzirani po rubovima.
Čovjek samome sebi iščupa glavu.
Jak film.

The opening scene of “Post Tenebras Lux” succinctly captures all that the movie is about. A toddler stands in a meadow during a thunderstorm; horses and a pack of dogs run in and out of frame. She is both enthralled by the enchantment of the setup, and yet it could easily turn sinister, even violent.
This is a film—an opus of cinematic art—that explores to various extents the function of anxiety in waking life and dreams. One might declare it riddled with fear and hesitation, although simultaneously it is intrigued and worried by these tumultuous emotions. Fear and desire, these twin engines propel “Post Tenebras Lux.”
The much commented use of a distorted lens in exterior scenes, which caused blurring and rippling effects on the edges of the frame, lends Carlos Reygadas’s latest a spectral beauty! It is as much an aesthetic choice, as it is an inventive depiction of the representation of memory and its fogginess. Despite certain harsh qualities and mystery of scenes, there’s a softness and intimacy too. It is like looking through a photograph album, but not necessarily in the correct, chronological order.
Nathalia Acevedo stars in
Nathalia Acevedo stars in “Post Tenebras Lux” (2012).
The husband, Juan (Adolfo Jimenez Castro), appears both brutish and loving. He is also entirely self-aware of his problems. A solid criticism to the movie is this: “Do we really need another film about male anxiety?” One longs for a sequel to “Post Tenebras Lux”—to form a diptych—told from the point of view of the mother and wife.
Do Juan and Natalia (Nathalia Acevedo) visit a sex club, or is it the projection of the husband’s fantasy? Juan mentions an addiction to Internet porn, and we might leap to the conclusion he imagines the episode as part of his inner erotic yearnings. Do we judge him as a pervert, or attempt to understand his sexual frustration? Or even recognise it in ourselves? The closeness might well frighten those of a nervous disposition. In another scene, he badgers his wife about performing anal sex. She is demure and that leads to an argument and childish accusations by Juan. You cannot turn real life relationships into the highly stylised and often lurid porno fantasia. Would he really want this, anyway? The power of desire is stronger than the angst of fulfilment. Perhaps, though, the scene is literal and that explains better the hesitation and nerves.
Film still from
Film still from “Post Tenebras.” Filmmaker Carlos Reygadas won “Best Director Award” for this
motion picture at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.
To shadow, rather than counter Juan, “Post Tenebras Lux” uses a subplot involving a peasant that the middle-class newcomer has befriended. A short sequence in the village shows how Juan is seemingly oblivious to Natalia’s unease at mingling with the locals, suggesting she is less comfortable with their new social arrangement, and even a bit of a snob. The peasant has problems with his own life and family relationships leading to one of the most brilliantly staged representations of existential frustration ever put on film.

“Post Tenebras Lux” is a beguiling and richly thematic work of cinema, and confirms Carlos Reygadas as a modern master of the medium. He has captured something remarkable, here.-


To be in the thrall of Mexican filmmaker Carlos Reygadas' beautiful, hypnotic images is to be alive to the decorous, the monstrous and the ridiculous, but also to feel deeply how they might interconnect. Entering the impressionistic hodgepodge that is his latest meditation, "Post Tenebras Lux," which won Reygadas the director prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival, moviegoers beholden to clean narrative may feel they need their own explanatory GPS and audio guide. But the richer reward lies in allowing oneself to be led by this gifted director's instinct for lyrical, sensory exploration.
The movie, whose title is a Reformation-era motto meaning "after darkness, light," is itself slapped into existence with a stunning sequence in which a little girl merrily scampers across a puddle-filled soccer pitch in a sweeping valley. She's surrounded by cows, horses, dogs, a darkening sky and a rippled blurring on the edges of the frame, and her childish ecstasy feels ethereally powerful amid the roiling naturescape around her. Never bashful about his bold image-making, Reygadas may not have been able to orchestrate the lightning, but he at least created the child who's front and center — it's his own daughter, Rut.
What follows is a sequence more intimate and disturbing, a nightly call to a sleeping house by a glowing red devil figure carrying a toolbox. Is one a dream and one a nightmare? Reygadas won't explain (and pointedly refuses to in interviews), but as the primary story settles in — focusing on a well-to-do family's move to a mountainside home, surrounded by poor villagers with simmering resentments — the early, head-scratching, seemingly incongruous scenes of abandon and invasion manage to haunt the rest of the picture. Coupled with what the director will cop to, that "Post" is semi-autobiographical, it seems safe to say that he's after something elusive about new domesticity in an anciently picturesque environment.
An immersive artist fascinated by humankind's place in the natural world — be it a suicide-minded traveler revitalized by a peasant grace ("Japon") or a Mennonite farmer's tussle with faith-shaking adultery ("Silent Light") — Reygadas is once again burrowing into the lived-in truth behind moments of simple bliss and aching portent, aided by the entrancing cinematography of Alexis Zabe and the sumptuous sound work of Gilles Laurent. A misty mountainside is disturbed by the sound of chain saws. A quiet family morning is thrown into shock when the father, Juan (Adolfo Jimenez Castro), brutally punishes one of the local dogs. What appears to be a fast-forward to a boisterous multigenerational reunion is followed by the parents' trip to a sex club in a French bathhouse. In this primal universe, the upsetting always seems around the corner from the Edenic, and vice versa.
There are glimpses of the future, wisps of the past and unanchored interludes, but Reygadas won't keep a steady chronology or point to, well, a point. Only when a fateful turn of events has wife/mom Natalia (Nathalia Acevedo) tunelessly warbling Neil Young's "It's a Dream" to her bedridden husband, himself suddenly moved by a dream of childhood in which he saw "how everything is alive, shining, all the time," does the movie even threaten to coalesce its themes into an intimate portrait of the struggle to keep our realities and fantasies on an even keel.
Then again, maybe the interludes of rugby-playing English schoolboys might throw you off completely. You might see Reygadas as merely a painterly noodler, given to pretension (it's true) and willful experimentation (very true). But "Post Tenebras Lux" is that real rarity in cinema, a visually striking archaeology of the psyche that benefits both the moviegoer primed to engage Reygadas' ideas, and the ones open to being swallowed in an art film wave. Because after the darkness of the movie house sets in, believe me, there is a very active, provocative and stunning light. - Robert Abele

Fiercely divisive at festival screenings worldwide, we’re proud to present the latest sensory missile from provocateur Carlos Reygadas (Japón, Battle In Heaven.) Detailing (in part) a well-to-do Mexican family’s journey into emotional and physical chaos, this is one of those theatrical experiences that’s as much fun to mentally crank afterwards, Rubik’s Cube-style, as it is to process while in the moment — bring a friend, and get prepared for some lively post-screening debate! “Audacious, frustrating, beautiful, shocking, emotional, impossible, perhaps brilliant. It begins in a little girl’s dream, running around a muddy field full of animals at magic hour as the sky gets darker and more ominous — then, in reality (maybe), the devil shows up. Not some metaphorical devil, but a pointy-tailed, horned, red thing with a goat’s head carrying a tool box. It’s a film where a man is playing happily with his children one moment, and then five minutes later, beating up his dog in a blind rage, one which follows its central couple from a family gathering in Mexico to, almost immediately, a libertine sex spa in France. It’s also a movie which contains moments of extreme tenderness and innocence, including an awkward rendition of a Neil Young song which almost brought me to tears. [Making] The Tree of Life look like a children’s cartoon, it is not meant for the type of people that finish a movie and demand to know what it means — but to paraphrase a quote from Cassavetes’ Shadows: ‘If you feel it, you feel it’.” — Brian Clark, Twitch

Post Tenebras Lux Carlos Reygadas
Entrancingly beautiful and calculated to confound, Carlos Reygadas’s first feature since Silent Light (07), is as beguiling a cinematic object as one is likely to encounter this year. Met with boos following its premiere at Cannes last year (although it went on to win the Best Director prize), Post Tenebras Lux represents Reygadas’s attempt to make a personal work in which autobiographical content is lyrically transfigured and elevated to cosmic heights.
Every component of the film affirms its lofty artiness, leaving little doubt that Reygadas is intent on crafting a cinema whose metaphysical explorations are as revelatory as those of his forebears: Dreyer, Tarkovsky, late Godard, etc. While this might suggest that Post Tenebras Lux is irritatingly grandiose, through its weirdo plasticity and viscous materiality the film manages to be at once fully cognizant of its cinematic lineage and altogether different from its predecessors. Echoes of Tarkovsky’s Mirror, Dreyer’s Ordet, and even Jonas Mekas’s Guns of the Trees resonate throughout but always with a wholly singular timbre.
The narrative revolves around Juan (Adolfo Jiménez Castro, sporting a multitude of hairdos and levels of stubble), a moneyed, middle-aged man living with his wife, Natalia (Nathalia Acevedo, whose courageous performance is capped by a wonderfully awful rendition of Neil Young’s “It’s a Dream”) and their young children, Rut and Eleazar (played by Reygadas’s own progeny). The family resides in a large modern house (Reygadas’s actual residence) incongruously situated in rural Mexico. The opening sequence points the way to the ravishing confusion to come: Rut runs wild among a pack of dogs and several horses on a water-logged soccer pitch as the magic hour fades into night; the darting camera and staccato cutting yield a frenetic image of bodies in motion. Far more invested in the audiovisual rendering of physicality than in narrative, Reygadas aims to evoke pure sensation.
In interviews, Reygadas has been reluctant to sort out the scrambled chronology of Post Tenebras Lux or to explain how certain ostensibly unconnected scenes—a red rotoscoped Lucifer figure making two housecalls, toolbox in hand; English adolescents playing rugby in school; a visit to a French bathhouse sex club with rooms named after Hegel and Duchamp—fit together with the main action, or what they mean. He has elaborated on the film’s signature formal device: a blurring distortion at the edges of almost all exterior shots that causes figures to take on a ghostly aspect as they fall out of focus and sometimes become doubled. For Reygadas this technique approximates the experience of looking through an imperfect pane of glass, and the distorted images express the way in which visual perception is informed by a host of desires, however unconscious. Setting aside the symbolic dimension, the results are, more often than not, gorgeous.
Post Tenebras Lux is a film rich with sheer material presence, making good on Reygadas’s apparent intention to make the viewer truly feel the audible and the visible, but his pictorial gimmickry can only do so much aesthetic heavy-lifting. In the end this is a painterly meditation on the interplay of vision, memory and imagination, and a quasi-diaristic account of the impressions that set the imagination to work. It amounts to watching the dissolution of the boundary between life and art, through a glass darkly. - Dan Sullivan

Matteo Garrone's Reality got the Grand Prix at Cannes last May, and the festival's best director award went (controversially) to Post Tenebras Lux, the fourth movie by the Mexican international lawyer turned film-maker Carlos Reygadas. A semi-autobiographical film in the style of his idol Andrei Tarkovsky, it's a confusing work in which past, present and fantasy alternate as the fractured narrative moves between the troubled life of Reygadas's alter ego with his wife and small children outside Mexico City, an orgiastic Turkish bath house somewhere on the Continent, and a rugby-playing public school in England he once attended. (The title translates as "light after darkness" and might well be the school's motto.) The family home is visited by a large, red devil and is robbed by an alcoholic farmworker, but it's just one self-indulgence after (or before) another. By some way the best sequence is the opening 10 minutes in which the auteur's real daughter runs around a rain-drenched field at nightfall, chasing dogs, cows and other animals as a storm comes on. It's truly Tarkovskian. - 

Carlos Reygadas: in defence of Post Tenebras Lux

Carlos Reygadas's new surreal film has been panned, despite his best director award at Cannes. So how does the Mexican director answer his critics?

   The Guardian,
Chirpy, excitable, and a little bit twitchy, Carlos Reygadas is not what you'd expect. If you ever thought directors' works were written in their faces – gaunt, elegant Michael Haneke; impish, sly Roman Polanski; ascetic, introverted Andrei Tarkovsky – then Reygadas is the exception that proves the rule. The 41-year-old Mexican is the man behind a string of rigorously high-minded films that include Japón, Battle in Heaven and Silent Light; right now, he is practically hopping from foot to foot as he talks about his new one, Post Tenebras Lux. He certainly isn't one for dignified shows of modesty: after winning the best director award at Cannes last year, he came into the journalists' room like an over-sugared toddler, waving his rolled-up certificate over his head, and punching the air with glee. It's just not done, I tell you.
Be that as it may, the gong at Cannes represented some sort of vindication. Post Tenebras Lux had been heartily booed after it first unspooled at the festival and another man might have been abashed. However, Cannes has been a loyal friend to Reygadas: all four of his features have played at the festival, with his third, Silent Light – a languorous, trance-like study of marital infidelity in a Mexican Mennonite community – winning Cannes's third-place jury prize in 2009.
But even for a director with a solid back catalogue of the rarified, the unconventional, and the disconnected, Post Tenebras Lux represents a major hump in the road. Many critics reacted with open exasperation – our own Xan Brooks called it a "congealed Jungian stew" – and there's no getting around the fact it is a nakedly self-indulgent stream of set-piece scenes – some confrontational, some lyrical, some plain absurd. Reygadas's signature long-take style, complemented by his predilection for damped-down performances from first-time actors and extraordinary visual coups, is present and correct, but the retreat from even the sketchiest conventional narrative progression is no doubt what has confounded even the most loyal of his defenders.
"People ask me: is it just a collection of images?" says Reygadas, quick to knock back even the faintest suggestion that his film may have coherence issues. "Of course not: in this film all the sequences work together with one another. I don't think you can take any of the 25 scenes and put them in a different order. It may not be the traditional narrative of cinema but it's actually pretty straightforward. It's true there is no clear code to read it, whether this is the past or the future, or if it is imaginary or not; but it's supposed to be like that, and you only understand retrospectively.                           
"We are used to knowing exactly what's going on when we are watching something, which is very strange because in life it is precisely the opposite. Most of the time in life we are living through things and don't know what they mean at the time, except at a very superficial level. It is only later they become important, or take on a particular relevance."
All well and good, but Post Tenebras Lux is certainly a puzzle with the best of them. A brilliantly opaque opening scene follows a small girl – who turns out to be Reygadas's own two-year-old daughter, Rut – chasing packs of wild animals thundering across a flooded football pitch carved out of the jungle, as an electrical storm breaks out overhead; it's a sequence filled with hallucinatory menace and nameless parental dread. A metaphor? A dream? Who knows? Hard on its heels is a scene of unspeakably sinister silliness: a glowing CGI Satan, toolbag in hand, stalks silently through a sleeping house, spotted only by another small child. Another dream? A symbolic presentiment of evil to come? If so, it could hardly be nuttier.
"There's not much to say about it," says Reygadas. "I go to that football pitch almost every afternoon with my daughter – she's the one who likes the place most – and all those animals are just free and running around. It's so beautiful there that I thought: I just want to shoot it and share it with others. Rather than describe it, I can show it directly without any explanation."
And the CGI devil? "Think for a second. The film is about life, everything you can go through, different representations of evil that we've met, very often incarnated in the devil. Maybe it's also a dream the child has, I don't know. The same thing happens to us in life: when you grow up and think back to your childhood, you can never really know the things you remember are things you created or real. That's the way perception works in the head, isn't it?"
Post Tenebras Lux goes on, barrelling from one bracingly bizarre scene to another: a dog is beaten to death; a married couple pad around a swingers resort where the rooms are named after philosophers; English schoolboys elbow and stagger their way through a rugby match; and, in one climactic scene, a man appears to decapitate himself with his bare hands. And as if he can't think of enough ways to wrongfoot his audience, Reygadas films most of this through a custom-built lens – "a unique lens, without a name" – bevelled at the edges to produce a refracted, distorted periphery around a clear-sighted centre.
Mexican director Carlos Reygades on the set of his film, Post Senebras Lux.                       
Mexican director Carlos Reygades on the set of his film, Post Tenebras Lux. 
By now it's clear that Reygadas is not the kind of film-maker who will calmly serve up bite-size insights to his ultimate intentions. The self-decapitator, for example, he says is "very closely connected to the idea of final destruction, where nothing can go any further", as well as summoning up the gruesome bloodletting of Mexico's narco wars ("this is an image any Mexican can see on the TV or in a newspaper"). The rugby? "The beautiful thing about contact sports is that you are afraid. You are in the middle of the scrum, so many people on top of you, the feeling you are going to lose your breath; it all implies life goes on even though you are afraid of it, you keep on playing no matter what."
The raw material of Post Tenebras Lux, however, has not been arrived at randomly. Reygadas went back to his old school, Mount St Mary's College in Derbyshire, to shoot the rugby scenes: it's where he played the game himself (and, surely alone among contemporary film directors, played for the Mexican national team). His own house in the village of Ocotitlán, 50 miles outside Mexico City, is a key location; the dogs are his, too – "but I'm yet to kill them".
You would, however, have to be properly closed-minded not to grasp that Reygadas does not have a theme: the patchwork of narrative that does emerge, disconnected as it is, is a study of what Reygadas terms "frustration": "Adults who are blocked, emotionally, spiritually maybe, which is the case of most adults in the developed world today." His lead character – the dog-killer, the sex-resort frequenter – "realises he's been ill in his life, and he hasn't been able to recognise how everything is shining and alive, and life is wonderful by the act of simply existing". Alluding to his title, which translates as "light after darkness", he says: "The whole point is: darkness comes, of course, but to free yourself from it as much as possible, and try to be enlightened."
Heady stuff, and Reygadas expresses some of this spiritual crisis through class conflict: the family in the farmhouse have decidedly fractious relations with the villagers in their shacks below. It's a theme with which Reygadas has become increasingly preoccupied: it's the muted backdrop to Battle in Heaven, and was raucously rehearsed in a short film called This is My Kingdom (completed two years ago for a portmanteau collection designed to celebrate the centenary of the Mexican revolution). As in Post Tenebras Lux, stolid villagers get heroically wasted, menacing the order and proprieties of the better off.
"I think," says Reygadas cheerfully, "we are living now in a moment of darkness." Whether or not anyone can discern this from the welter of images that bristle in Post Tenebras Lux is a moot point, but the director is unapologetic. "If you are going to be a slave of reality, you might as well not make films."

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