Carlos Reygadas (Japón, Battle in Heaven) mars his heretofore spotless track record with Silent Light (Stellet Licht), a film indebted to Carlos Dreyer’s Ordet that’s also the near-epitome of art-cinema pretentiousness. Reygadas not only drains any trace of sensuality and carnal heat – as well as any cultural/political shadings – from his latest, he also empties it of any noise or movement, employing so many slooooooooow-motion camera pans and zooms that his rigorously controlled aesthetic quickly seems a parody of its former self. Silent Light concerns a Mennonite family in Mexico whose patriarch Johan (Cornelio Wall) is torn between his wife Esther (Miriam Toews) and mistress Marianne (Maria Pankratz). Reygadas strives to elevate this tale to a biblical plane through visual and sonic inertia – which often results in a scene-by-scene game in which one strives to guess what’s hidden in the black space his camera is zooming into – as well as via affected symbolic moments such as a first-person shot of Marianne shielding her eyes from the sun with her hand, or the image of a moth flying out of a window immediately after a climactic instance of resurrection. Reygadas’ dedication to exacting formalism is impressive, but said form is itself the height of pomposity, his plethora of prolonged takes and amateurish acting conveying nothing that might qualify as spiritual, but revealing plenty about the vanity of its maker, who ultimately seems to care far less about his one-dimensional, designed-to-impart-messages characters than he does for his own show-offy artistry.
(2007 New York Film Festival)