Post Tenebras Lux

Post Tenebras Lux


Reviewed by: Donald Munro

Post Tenebras Lux keeps things boxed in with a tight aspect ratio and radial blur. For most of the film there is only an impression of what is going on. Events in the clear centre of the screen are affected and influenced by the unperceivable. The scenes are a series of vignettes linked by inference rather than anything approaching a conventional narrative. Each one is related to some episode, real or imagined, from the life of Carlos Reygadas, the film's writer and director. They range from the surreal to the tediously mundane. This pseudo-autobiographical approach is designed to reveal a pure impressionistic version of Reygadas' life, his fundamental state of being unclouded by unnecessary detail or subjective truth. In some ways it brings to mind the psychopathological novels of new wave science fiction.

The first scene focuses on a toddler, the daughter of Juan (Adolfo Jiménez Castro), Reygadas' alter ego. Alone in a field surrounded by animals, dogs running around in a pack chasing cows and horses. She is surrounded by half seen danger, sex, violence, and the unpredictability of panicked animals. The child survives unscathed, neither crushed, kicked nor bitten. Like most humans she survives without understanding the nature of their environment. She just keeps running up to the dogs, cows and rutting horses. This descends from a truly gripping piece of cinema to mind numbing repetition. It is at this point that the film fails. It is singularly boring. For two hours neither you nor the characters can reach out beyond the myopic portal of the radial blur. There is a failure to convey meaning. The film becomes devoid of emotional or intellectual stimulation.

Almost every scene lacks life. From Juan beating his dog to death to watching his wife have sex at a sauna frequented by swingers, the amount of engagement that it is possible to have with this film is close to zero. Sex and death are not counterpointed by a two minute shot of a man's ear as he walks across a field followed by 30 seconds of his crotch as he stands still, they blend into it. When the man then pulled his own head off I felt no surprise just a faint sense of déjà vu, something Japanese maybe. I should have done that two hours ago.

Without context to play against, surreal sections of the film like a glowing red devil wandering around Juan's house, with his drooping genitals and black toolbox, become uninterpretable. Is it intended to represent drink or drug use, physical or sexual violence, or bringing work related stress back to the home? Your guess is as good as mine. All I could say for sure about the scene is that the ray tracing from the devil to the toolbox wasn't done quite right.

Ignoring the eyestraining blur, some parts of the film are technicaly well crafted. Some shots are very well framed and parts of the film can be appreciated in small doses. An experiment in film making, like any other experiment, can fail. Post Tenebras Lux is a failure of the highest order.

Reviewed on: 22 Mar 2013
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Juan and his family live in a country house, where they enjoy and suffer a world apart. No one knows if these two worlds are complementary or if they strive to eliminate one another.
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Director: Carlos Reygadas

Writer: Carlos Reygadas

Starring: Adolfo Jiménez Castro, Nathalia Acevedo, Willebaldo Torres

Year: 2012

Runtime: 120 minutes

Country: Mexico, France, Netherlands, Germany


SSFF 2012
London 2012

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