Published Jul 10, 2008Carlos Reygadas really, really likes Carl Theodor Dreyer. The Mexican directors latest austere freak-out is made at once more and less interesting for its obvious worshipping at the Danish masters spiritual shrine, simultaneously failing to be the spiritual experience it wants to be while triumphing at being strange, creepy and incidentally fascinating.
Taking place in a closed Germanic farming community with a religious bent, it depicts the agony of a farmer in love with a woman not his wife. Thats precious little to stretch to 142 minutes, with plot being neck-and-neck with tactile imagery of the community and its environs. Eventually the wife finds out and theres a terrible event, setting the stage to re-enact the ending of Ordet; its up in the air as to what anybody is supposed to get out of that. But while this act of auteur piety is pretty opaque, as a Reygadas film it manages to grab you nonetheless.
You have to be pretty invested in the mysticism of the everyday to tolerate the long takes and lack of action, but those who are will find much to enjoy in the way the mundane is rendered bizarre through the stillest compositions imaginable. The films one sex scene is amazingly uncomfortable, even though it doesnt show much, and the people are the most bizarre freaks on Earth for being so very normal.
There are many who will find it tough slogging, though the director comes through with a final shot gorgeous enough to be worth the wait. The patient viewer will find it brilliantly de-familiarising, if not exactly sharp at depicting anything in particular. (Seville)