Post Tenebras Lux (Carlos Reygadas, 2012)
The new film from Mexican filmmaker, Carlos Reygadas, Post Tenebras Lux- a latin phrase meaning Light After Darkness, is an experimental family drama, which adopts a narrative flow that does moves between different levels of consciousness, fragmented chronologies and alternating points of view. Perhaps a bit too dense to be truly enjoyed, the film thrives on its vibrant cinematography. Opening with a young girl running after cows in a valley as a storm approaches, the film is off the beaten path stylistically, rejecting the more traditional widescreen format, adopting a sort of double-exposure motif, and bringing the camera to an unfamiliar vantage point, as we are on the same level as the child. This vibrant sequence evokes hope, life and love, however is properly contrasted with an incoming storm, and a moment of panic as the child screams for her parents. Many of the film’s sequence stand apart as extremely powerful “short films”, vaguely linked by similar characters and themes, even though they fail to come together in a particular effective or powerful way. The movement from darkness to light is central to the film’s design, not only in terms of aesthetics but thematically, as the characters are presented as morally jaded. This evil presence though, does not exist as an exceptional or punctuating quality, but is integrated as normality within this world. Quite easily one of the most beautiful films of the year, Post Tenebras Lux unfortunately it keeps the audience at too much of a distance. It remains a remarkable big screen experience, but will require a lot of patience and an open mind.
In Another Country (Sang-soo Hung, 2012)
In Another Country, the new film from Korean filmmaker Sang-soo Hung, is a charming romantic anthology starring Isabelle Huppert in three different roles. Adopting a meta structure, the film tells three tales of three French women (all played by Huppert), who go to the same seaside resort and have a mini-romantic adventure. The writer of these tales is a young Korean woman, who also plays a role in each story, having decided to write them based on the French actress she once met at a film festival. The supporting characters remain rather consistent throughout, as if they were extensions of the landscape. The circumstances of each character set the tone for her misadventures, which are motivated by romance, lust and betrayal. It adopts a light-hearted approach, but there is a lot of potency in the unseen changes within the characters, which are translated to the audience through performance and composition. The film is consistently engaging and charming, and there is serendipity to the interrelationship of each story. Each one builds on the previous relationships, creating a unique and challenging tapestry of human experiences. The film’s sense of humour really brings it to the next level, making it one of the most watchable films of the festival thus far.
Tabu (Miguel Gomes, 2012)
As a conceptual exploration of memory Tabu evokes powerful emotions and fantastic mysteries about the nature of remembering. Miguel Gomes’ film begins in the modern day with an old woman, Aurora, whose mind is slipping away from her. The ambiguities surrounding her mental demise are dealt with humour, playfulness and even an air for fantasy. The tragedy that hangs over her character and those who surround her is left almost unsaid, but there is a clear sense of isolation that is pervaded with a tremendous sense of loss. Yearning for youth in particular seems to be at the heart of this conflict, but it ultimately seems out of reach.. The film’s second half, aptly titled, “PARADISE”, is the story of the Aurora in her youth in Colonial Africa. Tabu, a name pilfered from the film by F.W. Murnau, evokes the process of memory itself as it adopts a hybrid of the silent film style as a means of suggesting the experience of memory. Diagetic sound exists, but the actors are mute, their mouths moving without any sound. This section is guided instead by a narration that at once explains the goings on, and romanticizes it. The image presenting conflict to the audience as it mixes contemporary documentary imagery with the recreation of the past based more on the films of John Ford and Howard Hawks then any historical record. The film subverts nostalgic expectations through the presentation of the film’s first part, never allowing the fear of death to creep away. Memory itself seems representative of the fragility of life, as it is a record of life that cannot be recaptured or recreated. One wonders if it’s true that each time we remember something we transform it, but the importance of memory is less reliant on the accurate recollection of events as much as it is about the power of emotion. Tabu is a rare cinematic romance that pierces the soul, perhaps it’s more conceptual nature evoking it’s intensity with a freshness that we have never really seen before.
– Justine Smith