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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tree falls in a forest. But does it make a sound?
I enjoyed Carlos Reygadas’ last film, Luz Silenciosa (Silent Light), though much more in the week following its screening than in the theatre itself. With hindsight, I believe I judged it harshly in my review. I wonder whether I’m about to do the same thing again.

Reygadas’ output is industrial-strength art-house: You need to pack a soft...
Published 4 months ago by Olly Buxton

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An addictive, hallucinogenic journey through rural Mexico
Beginning with a startlingly beautiful scene of a young girl alone in an ominous field at dusk, surrounded by a bounding pack of dogs and skittish cows, this film is instantly captivating - raising unanswerable questions and pulsing with the power of nature over human vulnerability. And so `Post Tenebras Lux' continues, as a series of vignettes with a few recurring...
Published 11 months ago by Ben Smith [SHELF HEROES]


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An addictive, hallucinogenic journey through rural Mexico, 16 Aug 2013
This review is from: Post Tenebras Lux [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Beginning with a startlingly beautiful scene of a young girl alone in an ominous field at dusk, surrounded by a bounding pack of dogs and skittish cows, this film is instantly captivating - raising unanswerable questions and pulsing with the power of nature over human vulnerability. And so `Post Tenebras Lux' continues, as a series of vignettes with a few recurring characters and an elusive plot. The closest it comes to a conventional narrative is with the story of Juan (Adolfo Jiménez Castro) and Nathalia (Nathalia Acevedo), a middle-class Mexican couple who, having moved their family to the country for a more wholesome life, find Juan's problems with addiction and violence unsettle their apparently idyllic life. The film slips back and forth through time without explanation depicting the couple and their children, a local tradesman, a French orgy, a rugby match and a haunting glowing red devil-like creature. A hard film to pin down, expectations twist from one scene to the next.

One of its problems is the sheer amount going on. Each segment apparently explores new themes and is inflected with slightly different styles (the influence of several European arthouse directors is clear), creating the impression of a visual collage lacking any obvious focus or intent - enigmatic and visually arresting, but as the story wears on without shaping its ambiguity into something tangible the experience does begin to frustrate. There's a fine line between poetic ambiguity and pretentiousness, and `Post Tenebras Lux' rests precariously upon it. Raising multiple unanswered questions it's hard to get a handle on what director Carlos Reygadas is trying to achieve here, and it appears more like a personal study. What it does capture beautifully is human frailty, the characters at the mercy of the vast imposing natural landscape or their own vices and desires.

The cinematography is exceptional, utilising an unusual 1:33 aspect ratio that, thanks to expert framing and use of light, remains authentically cinematic but keeps a feeling of claustrophobia and closeness that would be absent on a wider screen. An intriguing, almost kaleidoscopic vignette is also present in most of the scenes, distorting the edge of the lens in a way that mimics human sight and our peripheral vision. This amounts to an alluring spectacle that all but physically draws you in to these strangers' lives.

Despite its flaws 'Post Tenebras Lux' makes fantastic use of an air of mystery and short, digestible stories to form an addictive watch full of invention and the unexpected. Ultimately not as spiritually satisfying as it often promises to be, the spectacle and the bizarre experience are more than rewarding. Although the distributors have chosen not to change the title for the British release, 'Post Tenebras Lux' translates as "Light after darkness", a beautiful phrase that perhaps communicates more about Reygadas's intent.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tree falls in a forest. But does it make a sound?, 5 Mar 2014
This review is from: Post Tenebras Lux [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I enjoyed Carlos Reygadas’ last film, Luz Silenciosa (Silent Light), though much more in the week following its screening than in the theatre itself. With hindsight, I believe I judged it harshly in my review. I wonder whether I’m about to do the same thing again.

Reygadas’ output is industrial-strength art-house: You need to pack a soft cushion, an imaginative frame of mind, and to have put your disbelief in colloidal suspension. You must stand ready to invent, apply and discard as many narrative hypotheses as it takes to find one which will help you make sense of what you’re seeing.

With Luz Silenciosa, a film about a love triangle in a Mennonite community, I found one, if late in the piece: the idea that the camera itself is an intruder in the private world of the drama, necessarily intervening with what goes on. This was conveyed through continual reminders of the presence of a lens throughout the film, through rain-spots, sun flares, window frames and, on one occasion during a highway storm seen through a windscreen, all three.

The very act of observation irreparably changes the dynamic of the situation: only when someone is there to hear it, does a tree falling in a forest make a sound.

In Post Tenebras Lux (After Shadows, Light) we are, again, permanently aware of the camera, this time because Reygadas has, selected an almost insolently square aspect ratio and applied a lens which refracts, blurs and distorts the fringes of the picture. We feel as if we are inside a box brownie, or perhaps inside a dream.

A dream: Now there’s a narrative hypothesis that might help.

A fashionable term for this screenplay is non-linear; another way of describing it is all over the place. We open with a toddler happily chasing cows and dogs around a wet football field at dusk as a brutal storm rolls in. It is quite an opening scene (as striking as, yet as different as could possibly be from, the sublime opener of Luz Silenciosa). The film principally concerns a couple and their two children, Rut and Eleazar (played by Reygadas’ own children), whom we meet at several points during their childhood. Much of it is spent in remote Mexican woodland country, where the family has an uneasy relationship with each other, their animals, and labourers who steal, drink, smoke pot, vandalise trees and convene AA meetings in a corrugated iron shed.

Wait – falling trees! As if to validate my tentative theory, we see labourers maliciously sabotaging trees, deep in the Mexican rainforest, hacking part way through their trunks, only for them to fall, later, when no-one but the all-seeing, fish-eyed camera lens is there. It sees, and hears, so we do. We change everything. George Berkeley would be pleased.

Beyond the Mexican bush, the scenes seem wilfully disconnected. Wealthy city folk at a Christmas party argue the toss between Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. At a distance, the family gambols in the surf, and mid-scene, the children regress ten years to toddlers. A couple of scenes take place, apropos absolutely nothing, on a rugby field in England. There is a long orgy scene in a French Sauna which manages to be faintly comical and decidedly menacing at the same time.

I don’t pretend to have fathomed this film at all. But some impressions are forming, and by the end of the week I might have a theory about it. For the time being these ideas coalesce, like dream sequences in a box brownie:

There are threats all around us, natural, man-made and self-made. They thunder from the heavens and rise up from the ground. They emanate equally from our servants and our masters. Our own view is necessarily purblind; we are boxed in, constrained to see the world in terms dictated by our biology and our own distorted preconceptions. Yet, amongst all this, we remain exuberant, and confident, and out of angst, pain and loss comes vitality, love and advancement. Even as it ends, life goes on.

This may all be summarised in a passage from War and Peace, quoted rather obnoxiously at that dinner party:

Pierre had learned, not with his mind, but with his whole being, his life, that man is created for happiness, that happiness is within him, in the satisfying of natural human needs, and that all unhappiness comes not from lack, but from superfluity.

I’m not sure. This time next week, I may have figured it all out.

Olly Buxton
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars There’s a lot to ponder in ‘Post Tenebras Lux’ but a lot that you may cast aside just as quickly, 10 Feb 2014
This review is from: Post Tenebras Lux [DVD] (DVD)
Mexican film-maker Carlos Reygadas returns with his most ambitious film yet with ‘Post Tenebras Lux’, in the most part using a self-made beer-glass camera lens which refracts his figures, doubles the image and leaves the screen’s borders blurred.

The opening sequence sums up the dreamlike drama of this film, where a young child is surrounded by a pack of dogs and horses from daylight to darkness. Your mind starts to panic as you assume the worst will happen, questions go through your mind about the wellbeing of the child. Its an unnerving scene. Things get stranger still, with a series of seemingly unconnected stories; where English children play rugby in a school; a red Lucifer/goat-like figure making housecalls with a toolbox; and a bathhouse where orgies take place in rooms named after Hegel and Duchamp. Inbetween the many short stories, a couple called Juan (Adolfo Jiménez Castro) and Natalia (Nathalia Acevedo) live in a big house with their children in the mountains somewhere in Mexico. Their lives and the people that work for them are the only concentrated narrative strands running through this film.

These disparate short stories seem to be used to map out the different aspects of Reygadas’s home country. The rugby match is the one scene that doesn’t fit into this film, I assume its used as a unifying concept for Mexico’s people who shouldn’t be fighting amongst themselves but working as a team for the greater good, regardless of their backgrounds and beliefs.

‘Post Tenebras Lux’ is a sketchy film that flits between the real and unreal. By taking so many different snapshots of life, the message is often lost. These broad brushstrokes are occasionally impressive in situations you least expect, such as in the forest and the headless man. Beautifully filmed, Reygadas’s vision and imagination unlocks images you may not have seen otherwise, or unsuspecting thoughts and feelings. There’s a lot to ponder in ‘Post Tenebras Lux’ but a lot that you may cast aside just as quickly, what’s left may be all you need from this film.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Prominently atmospheric, poetically cinematographic and distinguishable...", 2 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Post Tenebras Lux [DVD] (DVD)
Mexican screenwriter, producer and director Carlos Reygadas` fourth feature film which he wrote and co-produced, is inspired by personal experiences. It premiered In competition at the 65th Cannes International Film Festival in 2012, was screened in the Wavelengths section at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival in 2012, was shot on location in Mexico, England, Spain and Belgium and is a Mexico-France-The Netherlands-Germany co-production which was produced by producer Jaime Romandia. It tells the story about a married couple named Natalia and Juan who lives in a grand house in the countryside in Mexico with their children. Whilst the husband attends an AA meeting and his wife stays at home with their housemaid named Chelita, their daughter named Rut who likes to be told stories plays with their cows and their son named Eleazar who admires Peter Parker has a vision of a devil in one of his dreams.

Distinctly and brilliantly directed by Mexican filmmaker Carlos Reygadas, this quietly paced fictional tale which is narrated from multiple viewpoints though mostly from the four family members` viewpoints, draws an instantly intriguing portrayal of a man who has a treasurable life, but who lacks the perception to see it. While notable for its naturalistic and various milieu depictions, distinct cinematography by Mexican cinematographer Alexis Zobé, production design by production designer and producer Gerardo Tagle, costume design and use of sound, light, colors and music, this narrative-driven, somewhat sociological and modestly existentialistic story about human experiences and co-existing realities which has a sense of love, a sense of mystery and an appreciation of life which is perceived through the many cinematic scenes created by a filmmaker who paints with his camera and who continues envisioning new perspectives to cinema, depicts an incisive study of character about a man who doesn`t fully recognize how fortunate he is.

This opaque, surprising, at times humerous, interpretative and reflective drama which is set mostly in a Mexican village and where a father and husband acquaints a tree cutter who has a troubled background named Seven and an English rugby team is preparing for their next match, is impelled and reinforced by its fragmented narrative structure, subtle character development, singular and, without exaggerating, extraordinary style of filmmaking, the children's viewpoints, the masterful scenes of the exploring daughter, understated acting performances by Mexican actress Nathalia Acevedo and Mexican actor Adolfo Jiménez Castro and the fine acting performances by the child actors. A prominently atmospheric, poetically cinematographic and distinguishable narrative feature which is a hymn to family life and which gained, among other awards, the award for Best Director Carlos Reygadas at the 65th Cannes Film Festival in 2012.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 13 July 2014
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This review is from: Post Tenebras Lux [DVD] (DVD)
This is a very strange movie..Fascinating and frustrating,
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Post Tenebras Lux [Blu-ray]
Post Tenebras Lux [Blu-ray] by Carlos Reygadas (Blu-ray - 2013)
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