Customer Review

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunningly beautiful example of what cinema is capable of., 5 May 2008
This review is from: Silent Light [DVD] (DVD)
The stunningly beautiful, and immensely moving, Silent Light was, for me, the best film released in 2007, and its availability on DVD enables a wider audience to appreciate its marvels. While a reviewer in one Sunday newspaper informed his readers that it is "the kind of film favoured by those who are basically disdainful of movies", the fact that this same newspaper in 2006 described the Dardennes brothers' terrific L'Enfant as "really just a French version of Cathy Come Home" shows how much reliability can be placed on its judgements.

Silent Light is a mesmerising drama set in the Mennonite community of northern Mexico, with members of the community, non-actors all, playing the main parts. The dialogue is in the archaic Dutch-German language which they speak, and, for the first 90 minutes, is a simple story of a middle-aged family man agonising over his adulterous relationship with another woman in the community. Then there is an unexpected tragedy, followed by what is a virtual remake of the miraculous last scene of Carl Dreyer's 1955 classic Ordet.

The newspaper reviewer mentioned above cannot see the simple fact that Silent Light is a grown-up movie, shot in a grown-up way. The first 5 minutes are an extraordinary time-lapse sequence of the skies from night to sunrise, the soundtrack filled with sounds of the waking natural world; the last 5 minutes are the reverse (sunset to night). If people prefer pointless cgis and rapid-cut editing, so be it; but they are depriving themselves of the experience of what cinema can do.

The drama plays itself out against the background of the wide-open landscapes of the region, the landscape not just of the farmlands but also of the actors' faces, largely expressionless, almost trance-like (melodramatics would ruin a film like this, and there is no non-diagetic music to tell us how we should be reacting). The scenes between the central character and his non-judgemental father, played by a real-life father and son, are particularly moving.

Several scenes, incidental to the basic plot, are specially memorable, such as the magical extended sequence of the children playing in the lake. But it is the final scene, the near-remake of Ordet, which will provoke the most argument and discussion. The "miracle" itself is perhaps less convincing than that of Dreyer's film, not because of how it is shot but because of the context; it could conceivably be interpreted as the farmer's fantasy. (The director has said in an interview that it is more Sleeping Beauty than Ordet.) In the length of time during which Reygadas holds what is virtually a still-life shot he is daring almost to the point of parody; almost, but not quite. It takes a great director to know when to cut.

DVD extras are few, just an interview with the lead actor and a short written note by a critic. But the film itself is worth anyone's money, a brilliant example of what cinema can do.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 10 Apr 2013 08:54:24 BDT
Mesmerising? I think your review is a rather stunning example of 'one man's meat....'. However you're in good company, apparently Martin Scorcese thought it a work of art too. Perhaps Martin and I were watching different films....

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Apr 2013 10:32:18 BDT
Alan Pavelin says:
Well, 20 out of 21 people found my review helpful (not the same as liking the film, but . .), and the critics lauded it when it came out. But I hated this director's latest film, Post Tenebrae Lux, so I would not recommend that.

Posted on 6 Sep 2013 11:23:11 BDT
I hope those that considered your review helpfull aren't too disappointed.
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Alan Pavelin
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Location: Chislehurst, UK

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