Silent Light (2007)


Stellet Licht

Mexico; Carlos Reygadas

Parental Guidnace – Brief Sexual Content

A father’s (Cornelio Wall) faith is tested when he falls in love with another woman. He opens himself to his best friend, his father and even his loving and quiet wife, but after repeatedly failing to surmount his forbidden passion, he starts contemplating leaving the household altogether. Despite his overwhelming guilt, he goes on with his mundane farming occupations, torn on the inside between what is left of his affection and respect for the mother of his children and his lust for happiness with his mistress, unable to make the radical step he yearns. A dramatic incident will shatter his existence – giving him, eventually, a tragic certitude. But is it too late already to make amends?

The film circularly opens and closes with a few minutes of pure pantheist ecstasy. Nature in all its splendor fill the screen, rustling and humming with the sounds and promise of life, as the first glimmers of light chase away the night in a hypnotic extended shot. It is Reygadas own personal cosmogony, that anchors the story into an alternate reality that, although similar to ours, is a magical bracket inserted into the stride of the universe.

The paradox is heightened by the ultra-realist approach that Reygadas embraces to confuse us. His approach is occasionally trying, but nonetheless its serenity and detachment is undeniably soothing. The acting (Reygadas used non-professional actors, a choice an increasing number of auteurs make) is uniformly excellent, but people and nature alike seem blend in the same eerie distance, as if observed from afar by a mighty deity.

Psychologically, it is a convincing study of guilt, not in its more spectacular deployments, but as a disease eating us from the inside, turning us into machines going by our daily routines as if under a sedative. The film as a whole often feels like a drowsy trance, but for the viewer the emotional punch is dulled by this detachment.

Undoubtedly, Stellen Light is in many respects a treat for the soul and the eyes, but the result is, sadly, bereft of poignancy and immediacy. 

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