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Post Tenebras Lux


Life is cyclical, filled with both blatant and subtle cycles that become manifest as we choose to see them. There are simple ones, simple in that even a young child has a grasp on it: day and night, sleeping and waking, one behavior being rewarded, a different one is punished, strategies for getting around it, others that never work, etc. As we grow older, the more intricate ones appear, like bars of a cage that had not been visible while you were too busy thinking about other things. Then something strange happens apart from the natural cycles of life. We start to create, fabricate, cycles within our lives, sometimes strengthening the bars that hold us to the natural laws of this world, then shrinking the cage to a point where we are also bound to cycles that are only self-destructive.
In Carlos Reygadas’ Post Tenebras Lux, I saw a beautiful, powerful exploration of the side of cycles that is usually in the dark, the downturn. The point briefly after the fact, when the party is over, and you’re looking around the room at the empty beer bottles and stains on the carpet, nearly everyone has left and there is nowhere for the mind to go except the next day, breaking subtly through the window. You wince at the thought of going to work, or running an errand, things that didn’t exist eight hours before. A palpable heaviness is in the air as life empties itself, waiting patiently and uncaringly for your to start filling it again. Aside from this theme, the images themselves were incredibly nostalgic and original, I was hooked from the strange beginning scene.
A little girl is roaming around a field in the sunshine, cows and dogs run all over the place around her. She is laughing and giggling, smiling. But we overstay our welcome as eventually the sun goes down, but we are still with her, in the field, in the darkness. She’s not laughing anymore. Someone made a mistake. The scenes of dusk behind various environmental backgrounds is insanely beautiful, and the distorted edges of the film throughout give it an added dimension of dreaminess, as we are taken freely back and forth through time.
The wealthy couple, Natalie (Nathalia Acevedo) and Juan (Adolfo Jimenez Castro), are developed and revealed to us through various scenes, attempts at breaking the ritual cycle, with which they’ve grown bored. These range from parties to sex, but none of it hides the problems that cause them to fight, the same ones over and over gain. the overwhelming beauty that surrounds them doesn’t seem to mean anything anymore, while the viewer is given gifts of extended shots on such beauty.

Another character the film follows is that of “El Siete,” a nickname we learn as we are inside an AAA meeting in which members divulge their vices and struggles in trust. El Siete has had many things go wrong in his past, alcohol, drugs, stealing. These men seem to be making an honest attempt at breaking the self-destructive cycles in their lives. Juan comes along with El Siete, but feels that his problem, addiction to online pornography, is minor compared to everyone else’s. The hope of these men’s redemption is tragically shattered when El Siete ends up shooting Juan as he tries to get away with some stolen goods from Juan’s house when it is left untended by another friend, El Jarro–he seems to be unable to escape what many might call an “evil” nature. Is this the meaning of the thin red glowing devil that walks through the house, one at the beginning of the film and once again near the end? Is evil predetermined, a will owned like property by this evil presence? I’m not sure, it is still open to me, but what a cool effect to watch.

Juan quotes Tolstoy’s War and Peace in a scene where everyone is arguing the best Russian writers: “Pierre felt for the first time, that strange, yet pleasant feeling as he suddenly understood that wealth, power, life… everything that men fight for and defend so eagerly, are worth no more than the pleasure one feels when they abandon you.” There is certainly a pervasive sense of all comes to nothing in the end throughout the film, but it is the quiet, contemplative beauty that the film accentuates which acts as an arbiter of each cycle’s birth, reminding us to forget worrying about it.
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About emilyelizabeth1283one of us since 8:40 AM on 12.19.2013

I've been obsessed with movies for years, but have only recently began writing reviews regularly on both new and older movies. I have a special interest in modern Asian cinema and absolutely can't get enough of watching documentaries. Visit my regular film blog here: https://funkyforestfirstcontact.wordpress.com