There would seem to be one in every bunch, and at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Carlos Reygadas’ Post Tenebras Lux leaves you scratching your head, wondering what it was about, and why it was included in the competition.
The Spanish movie with a Latin title, translated as “After Darkness, Light” tells the disjointed and sluggish story of a family living in the countryside, coping with sexual issues, family discontent, and based on the slow pace of every single scene, endless ennui.
Despite the very methodical, meticulous tempo of the film, the characters simply do not grow. The husband is continually antagonist and abusive, verbally and physically, and his gorgeous wife, is forever listless, helpless. When the dad brutally beats one of his dogs early on in the movie, there is not much he can do to restore any interest or respect.
Unfortunately the film often tries to pass off the bizarre and unexpected for something meaningful but instead just comes off as arrogant. Every scene, every shot is too long, and some just unnecessary, and when done to such egregious length, we the audience can’t help but feel like we’re being led on a ruse.
The insults continue, as about half of the movie (whatever it seemed was shot outdoors), is visibly blurring on the peripherals, one of the many aspects of the movie that is arbitrary or careless, but regardless, poor.
A promising, tension-filled opening, with a precious child standing in a vast, muddy field as wild cows, horses and donkeys run around without restrain, is followed by a scene of an ominously glowing devil entering a home and slowly peering around. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is just as random, and what metaphor there is meant to be is so far strained, and beyond care.
While puzzling, there are a few distinguished scenes, in particular is a trip to the bathhouse, where many a devious man leer, and a moment where a man performs a curious form of self mutilation, or perhaps sacrifice. Don’t let those be slightly tempting reasons to see, as sex and blood abound in every other movie too, and is probably far less uncomfortable.
When the film finally stumbles towards the final minutes, the biggest and final blow to the audience is not catharsis, but simply more random pieces thrown together. There is a tease of revelation, but that leaves quickly, offering only more inane filmmaking that ends in emptiness, and frustration.