Silent Light (Reygadas, 2007)

In Carlos Reygadas’ challenging and sublime Silent Light, the stunning beauty of the natural world slowly unearths the turmoil hidden in each character, most notably Johan, a man torn between his wife and lover whose family resides in a desperate Northern Mexico Mennonite community.

Bookended by what may be the greatest fade in and out shots in decades, Reygadas’ story is seeped in symbolism and layered mise-en-scene. But as each long take unfolds and Johan’s stricken decisions begin to weigh on both devoted women, ambiguity overwhelms any simple qualifications or answers, leading down an unexpected path riddled with narrative gaps and visual prose.

Much has been written about Silent Light already and most detractors of the film seem hellbent on calling Reygadas to task for being “opportunistic” in his camera movements and blocking, as if his visual creativity instills a dishonesty, or fabricated artificiality to the proceedings. In fact, Silent Light harbors a deep affection for its conflicted characters despite the “pretty” visuals, and Reygadas goes out of his way to show them as shifting souls coming to grips with emotions at odds with their belief system.

Like Reygadas’ far grittier and disturbing Battle in Heaven, Silent Light reinforces the stark struggle between visceral emotion and faith-based religions. However, Silent Light grapples with a place (physical and psychological) few films do – the contradictory heavens above.

– Screened at the 2009 San Diego Latino Film Festival

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