Post Tenebras Lux (Light after Darkness)

Cannes Film Fest 2012 (Main Competition)–Innovative Mexican Carlos Reygadas has been a regular presence at the Cannes Film Fest over the past decade or so, but his films have become less and less satisfying and more and more problematic, reducing their potential commercial appeal.

This is certainly the case of his latest, “Post Tenebras Lux,” which translates into “Light after Darkness,” and will be released by Strand in spring 2013, a year after its Cannes showing.

“Post Tenebras Lux” was easily one of the most experimental films in the 2012 Main Competition, where Reygadas was awarded the Best Director kudo. But, as noted, it is also one of his least accessible works, sharply dividing critics in Cannes and elsewhere.

Living up to its title, and ambitious to a fault, “Post Tenebras Lux” is at once symbolic, existential, and pretentious. The movie aims to reflect on the most primal and primitive conflicts of the human condition. The film makes demands on viewers, who at the end of the experience might remain baffled, wondering if it was worth investing so much attention and patience.

Nominally, the film relates the story of an upscale urban family whose move to the Mexican countryside results in domestic crises and class frictions, that is, tensions from within and without the nuclear clan.

The way he is constructed as a screen character, the protagonist Juan remains an enigma to the very end. However, what elevates “Post Tenebras Lux,” and gives it the aura of an art film worthy of being shown at a prestigious forum such as Cannes, is its stunning visual imagery, evident in all of Reygadas’ previous efforts.

Thematically, the psychological portrait of a family and its place within the sublime remains mysterious and ambiguous, and the narrative’s efforts to reconcile two different worlds (including the often punitive, unforgiving natural milieu) proves to be a nearly impossible task.

What lingers in memory is Reygadas unforgettable and ominous imagery, such as a truly haunting sequence at dusk, when a young girl (Reygadas’s real-life daughter) wanders in a muddy field, while farm animals circle her and a thunderous lightning seems to threaten her.

Equally impressive (and also baffling) is a scene of a glowing-red demon gliding through the rooms of a home, or the husband and wife visiting a swingers’ bathhouse, in which the rooms are named after famous philosophers.

Reygadas’ cotterie of fans likely would defend his picture, which is by turn entrancing and mystifying, reward in frustrating.
But “Post Tenebras Lux”" will do close to nothing in recruiting new afficionados to the work of a gifted and ambitious filmmaker, particularly now that foreign language cinema struggles for its very existence in the U.S.

Credits

Running time: 120 Minutes.
Directed and written by Carlos Reygadas

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