VOD film review: Post Tenebras Lux
Ivan Radford | On 26, Jul 2013
There’s something about cinema, more than any art form, that mimics memory. From Tabu and Memento to Trance, films have always played with the idea of memories unspooling on screen – instantly watchable as soon as they’re recalled, regardless of order or meaning. Post Tenebras Lux (literally “light after darkness”) takes that visual potency and turns into something interesting, yet stubbornly unfathomable.
A young girl stands in a sunny field surrounded by cattle and dogs. Slowly, the sky dims, the animals disappear. Lightning and thunder arrive. She cries quietly out for mummy. The screen fades.
It’s a striking start to what is essentially a string of striking sequences. We see Juan and his wife Nathalia playing with their daughter and son. Then we watch as they go to a swingers club and surrender their bodies to strangers. And, every now and then, something completely disconnected: a glowing animated demon stalks through the house. A man decapitates himself.
What it all means is anyone’s guess but there’s something autobiographical in the flashes of Carlos Reygadas’ own life, drawing on his playing of rugby at school in England’s muddy fields. A storyteller’s subjective stamp is all over it, right down to the stunning visuals that give everything the haze of recollection: Reygadas’ most surprising move is filming everything through a custom lens, which gives the world a beveled edge, as through peeking at the past through a tiny window in an old person’s front door. Whenever something moves off the screen, it splits into two, blurring into an almost nightmarish shadow lurking on the periphery – that aesthetic alone was enough to earn Carlos Best Director at Cannes last year, creating a bewitching tableau that intrigues as much as it baffles – and rarely bores.
Post Tenebras Lux is less a movie and more a bewildering, hypnotic trance. It that a good thing? Who knows? But you’ll definitely want to experience it again.