Mexican director Carlos Reygadas may have finally convinced many of his talent as a filmmaker with the Mennonite drama Silent Light, but the confrontational, defiantly radical nature of his cinema as revealed in earlier films Japon and Battle in Heaven is back with a vengeance in Post Tenebras Lux. It's the sort of film whose non-linear, purely sensory ebb and flow seems tailor-made to entrance and exasperate in equal manner, and as such it is proof that Mr. Reygadas' artistic pursuits do not dovetail with any sort of "career arc" or "progression".

     Openly personal in nature - the director's own children have central roles in the film, which was shot in his family's rural house in Mexico - Post Tenebras Lux is a deliberately labyrinthine mosaic of half-dreamed, half-remembered images, shuffling tenses and places in a virtuoso yet opaque manner. The film's apparently haphazard plot strands hint at a thoughtful, highly talented filmmaker sketching a series of possible film ideas or narrative threads dealing with class, history, wealth and poverty, tradition and modernity, thought and emotion. In many ways, that juxtaposition of concept and image, of something being transmitted through audiovisual means alone, makes Post Tenebras Lux a sort of pagan equivalent to Terrence Malick's sacred ruminations in The Tree of Life and To the Wonder; a series of son et lumière epiphanies, as formally seductive as they are conceptually oblique. The difference is Mr. Reygadas takes his experiments much further, and into more rarefiedly opaque regions.

     The central thread, if one can call it that, follows the uneasy class cohabitation between the privileged white man living in the country with his wife and kids (Adolfo Jiménez Castro) and the impoverished native Mexican hired help (Willebaldo Torres). That subliminal tension plays a very strong part in giving Post Tenebras Lux its sub-surface dread, a disquiet made visible through the bizarre devil figure that appears briefly onscreen at the film's bookends, but also in the private plot threads that Mr. Reygadas allows each of them. For all that, though, and despite the director's insistence on long takes where things happen organically from the inside out, there's always the sense Post Tenebras Lux is essentially a cryptic notebook aimed at the filmmaker himself rather than at its viewers; a personal, somewhat futile exercise whose full meaning will never be truly attained except by those "in the know" but whose general interest remains, thanks to the sheer visual talent of the breathtaking visuals created by Mr. Reygadas and his master cinematographer Alexis Zabé.

Cast: Rut Reygadas, Eleazar Reygadas, Nathalia Acevedo, Adolfo Jiménez Castro, Willebaldo Torres
Director and writer: Carlos Reygadas
Cinematography: Alexis Zabé  (colour)
Designer: Geraldo Tagle
Editor: Natalia López
Producers: Jaime Romandia, Mr. Reygadas (No Dream Cinema and Mantarraya Producciones in co-production with Le Pacte, ARTE France Cinéma, FOPROCINE, IMCINE, The Match Factory and Topkapi Films) 
Mexico/France, 2012, 115 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, UCI El Corte Inglés 12, Lisbon, June 18th 2013


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