The last great film of 2008 (huh?) is Carlos Reygadas' Silent Light, which opens today for a two-week run at Film Forum after festival raves in 2007 and somewhat quixotic official theatrical debut at MoMA last fall. It's something like a flesh world passion play. A love triangle, between a husband, the wife of his many children, and a neighbor woman (later seemingly exiled) who looks uncannily like his wife, it's set in one of Mexico's secluded Mennonite community — timeless, if you like, for the clothes and rituals unchanged in centuries. Silent Light is, from its opening sunrise to closing sunset, attuned to the natural world, which in Reygadas's stately pace and sensual sound design, seems to hum: growing grass, rushing water, looing cows, chewing children. Though the journey through stations of lust, guilt, martyrdom and forgiveness at times perhaps indulges the grandiosity of the male ego at its self-prostration, the only word Silent Light's aesthetics is rapture.
When it played at MoMA last fall, the L's Michael Joshua Rowin, our house Reygadas booster, wrote:
With Silent Light, Reygadas adapts to the rhythm of his nonprofessional actors and their environment, employing basic camera movements and compositions (both, however, still stylistically "transcendent") so he can render his unexplained miracles (a leaf falling indoors, a sudden field of snow) all the more startling and evocative of an inscrutable god. The film's best miracle develops precisely from it — by the time Silent Light reaches its Dreyer-esque climax you'll have witnessed the growth of contemporary cinema's greatest modern primitives.