Post Tenebras Lux | Movie review
A child runs gleefully through a herd of cows at sunset. A glowing red devil skulks through a house at night. A married couple attends a bathhouse orgy where rooms are named after philosophers like Hegel and Duchamp. All of these scenes, and more besides, are shot in a square aspect ratio (1.33:1) with a filter that randomly blurs the edges of the frame, as if we are viewing everything we see through a kaleidoscope.
At this point you should know if you want to submit yourself to the latest feature from Carlos Reygadas (Silent Light), and submit you must to this thrillingly strange film’s evocative flow. A story is somewhat apparent: Juan (Adolfo Jiménez Castro) and Natalia (Nathalia Acevedo) are a wealthy married couple living with their children, Rut and Eleazar (played by Reygadas's own daughter and son), in the Mexican countryside. Their lives are contrasted with the lower-class peasants who work the verdant land surrounding Juan and Natalia’s home.
Best to leave the narrative and the resulting class warfare allegory at that. Reygadas is no stranger to politically charged moviemaking (the climax here is an astonishingly unnerving and confrontational coup de cinema). What matters more is recognizing Post Tenebras Lux’s kinship with a strain of impressionistic autobiographical cinema practiced by filmmakers such as Andrei Tarkovsky (The Mirror) and Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life) in which every sound and image seems to spring straight from the psyche. Even at their most opaque, the best of these films are distinguished by an inimitable specificity—the subliminal shards of a singular mind given sublime cinematic form. This is a movie that, even in its most inexplicable or provocative moments, welcomes each of us into its stream of subconsciousness as a fellow dreamer.