Post Tenebras Lux
Directed by Carlos Reygadas
The man knows how to open a movie: the celestial dance at dawn in Silent Light, and now the way his latest lets us feel nightfall in a muddy field of animals as seen through the eyes of a toddler. The primal, goose-pimply sequence overshadows a stubbornly enigmatic, fragmentary film, seemingly a collection of moral or spiritual trials set against the classist backdrop of contemporary Mexico, in which one or both halves of a handsome, comfortably off couple in the countryside tend to the kids, deal with handymen, submit to a chic sex club, and attend a narcotics anonymous meeting.
A sense of anticipation, reserved if not quite apocalyptic, sets in early as director Reygadas throws down scenes of photographic beauty and, often, human caprice or cruelty. The appearance of a red, glowing devil (rendered in simple animation) suggests we have cause to worry; scenes from a random school rugby game underline Reygadas’s free recourse to abstraction. (Is this a hard-to-shake formative private-school experience; an ecstatic representation of bodies at play; or just, you know, a rugby game?) Exteriors are shot, as mentioned in every review since the film’s award-winning debut at Cannes last year, with lenses that blur the edges of the image, like an effect from a 1920s avant-garde film or a representation of tunnel vision.
The film’s title recalls a Reformation expression signifying the light of knowledge and understanding acquired after the prolonged darkness of ignorance (which makes one remember an interview wherein Reygadas deflected a comparison to Tree of Life by saying Post was less Catholic). The man and the woman in the couple (whose children are played by Reygadas’s actual children, and whose house is his own) may face moments of illumination, but the pungency of the director's imagery and the assurance of his mysterious mission do not dispel the feeling of being left somewhat in the dark.
Opens May 1