Silent Light (Luz silenciosa)

Silent Light (Luz silenciosa)

Silent Light (Luz silen­ciosa) (Director: Carlos Reygadas): Another one of my pre­viewed films that made the final cut, Silent Light is a bit intim­id­at­ing to write about. Beginning with a stun­ning six minute shot of the sun rising over a Mennonite homestead, the film alerts us that it is going to require patience and a cer­tain sense of con­tem­pla­tion. And it estab­lishes right away that everything that fol­lows, the human story, is sec­ond­ary to the cycles of nature, to the cir­ca­dian rhythms of the nat­ural world, to the pulse of life that beats deep down in the earth and that echoes through­out the uni­verse. I’m sorry if I’m using high-flown lan­guage; it’s the effect of this strangely haunt­ing film.

Johan is a simple farmer who’s lived his whole life among the Mennonites of north­ern Mexico. They don’t com­mu­nic­ate much with out­siders, and speak their own Plautdietsch dia­lect of German. He lives with his wife Esther (Canadian nov­el­ist Miriam Toews in a sur­pris­ing role) and their large fam­ily. The film’s crisis comes when we learn that Johan has been car­ry­ing on an affair with Marianne, another woman in the com­munity. He’s been hon­est about it with Esther from the begin­ning, and has tried to break it off, but deep in his heart he feels that Marianne is his “nat­ural woman” and that mar­ry­ing Esther was a mis­take. Though he clearly loves her and his chil­dren, he’s torn by the power of his pas­sion for the other woman as well as his con­vic­tion that she is his inten­ded match. Reygadas’ decision to use authen­tic Mennonite non-pro­fes­sion­als has mixed res­ults. Though it’s clear that these are stoic people who use few words, in places the dia­logue still felt excess­ively mannered. He is able to achieve more with the cam­era than with any spoken dia­logue, and that’s where the film finds its emo­tional power.

The cine­ma­to­graphy and sound design are almost Dogme-like in their sim­pli­city, which makes the film’s cli­max all the more sur­pris­ing for some. Without giv­ing any­thing away, all I’ll say is that unlike many, I found it com­pletely nat­ural and mov­ing in its sim­pli­city. And although this is sup­posedly a com­munity built on Christian faith, I found some­thing closer to pan­the­ism beat­ing at its heart.

Here is the Q&A with dir­ector Carlos Reygadas from after the screen­ing:

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Duration: 23:58

Official Site


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3 Responses to Silent Light (Luz silenciosa)

  1. Bob Turnbull says:

    I think you’ve sold me on this one too James…After our chat the other night I men­tioned the film to my wife and she was very curi­ous to see it. Both the sub­ject mat­ter as well as Miriam Toews’ involve­ment were big reas­ons. She really enjoys her fic­tion books, but also was very much taken by her accounts of grow­ing up in Canadian Mennonite com­munit­ies.

  2. Jay Kerr says:

    I thought this was a fab­ulous film but I find the end­ing a little frus­trat­ing. The more I think about it the more I dis­like the end­ing.

    That aside, this is a beau­ti­ful look­ing film. The artistry behind the fram­ing, the use of col­our and the com­pos­i­tion in each scene is incred­ible. If you appre­ci­ate land­scape pho­to­graphy at all then you’ll love the visual ele­ment of this film.

  3. James McNally says:

    Just wanted to jump in and let Torontonians know that the film is finally open­ing the­at­ric­ally at the Royal on Friday July 11th. Not sure how long it will be there, so plan to see it that first week­end before this gor­geous and mov­ing film dis­ap­pears.

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