Post Tenebras Lux Reviews
Well, this is not something you "get". You watch it, you think, you assume, you make up a solution - or some possibilities. This is an extremely well shot film that have some very cool effects. Amazing nature shots seem to be a trademark of the director - here he's hits the jackpot. The scene in the boat, the falling trees, the ocean - there are almost to many to mention, they are all just amazing.
It's a silent film, with many scenes driven by total silence. The family we meet are some sort of leads with some adorable little kids. We skip a bit in time, at least I think so, and quite possibly we switch from human view, animal view, demon view and nature view several times.
I get the feeling that this is a much more personal film than the directors previous ones, it's subtle, dreamy and extraordinary in so many ways. Someone discribed it as a blend of Malick and Lynch. I could not agree more.
Not a perfect film, but a film that will stick with me for a long time.
8.5 out of 10 Duchamp rooms.
1) You can't hate what you don't understand.
2) You can't love what you don't understand.
Needless to say, I didn't understand Post Tenenbras Lux. And I'm not sure why. To help illustrate where I'm coming from, I'll compare to this to Holy Motors. Because, like PTL, it's also an avant-garde art film. But, unlike PTL, Holy Motors was critically acclaimed.
(The following discussion is written as I go along and is very general)
What makes a good art house film?
This is an even more complicated debate than what makes a film good generally speaking. But art house cinema is even more subjective than general cinema. I know it sounds ridiculous to separate the two, but I hope you're picking up what I'm throwing down.
I think when it comes down to general cinema, what will really divide audiences about liking Film X is the story. People will like the film, as a whole, if they like the story. People won't like the film, as a whole, if they don't like the story.
I think when it comes down to art house cinema, though, what will really divide audiences about liking Film Y is their interpretation of what it means. Art house films typically set out to mean something more. Something not concrete. They can use many techniques and tools to do this, but regardless, the meaning of Film Y can be drastically different from person to person. Oppose to Film X where the story is straight-forward and everyone can agree what happens, why they happen, and so forth.
Why I believe Holy Motors clicked significantly more than Post Tenenbras Lux is because Holy Motors, for an avant-garde film, isn't so far-fetched. It plays like a concept album. Each scene contributes to the expression of the overarching concept, theme, meaning, idea, or whatever. They're easier to connect, basically.
To me, without going in too deep, because this is a PTL review not a Holy Motors thesis paper, Holy Motors was a commentary about the art of acting. But as for Post Tenenbras Lux, I couldn't make much or any connections to all the other scenes, nor did I find a common underlying concept, theme, meaning, idea, or whatever between all or any of them. It was much harder for me to connect, basically.
For that reason, I can't give this a good or a bad review. Because I didn't understand it. To give it a bad review because I didn't understand it, would be cinematic injustice. To give it a good review even though I didn't understand it, would be self-deceptive and pretentious.
But I will say it truly has some exquisite visuals. The second scene in the film is the filmmaker's daughter running and wandering around an enormous field filled with cows, dogs, and donkeys during dusk. And to be quite honest, I could've watched that for the entire duration of the film. The child was adorable, the backdrop was gorgeous, and the camera movement was immersive.
That being my favorite scene, despite having no idea how it ties into the whole film, my second favorite comes from the one right after or just a couple after. A red demonic silhouette carrying a toolbox lurks through the home of the film's central family.
So, there's some really fascinating moments and scenes here and there, but as I've said multiple times already, I just don't know what they mean.
Having said all this, when I put the flick in, it was around two or three in the morning ... Not sure if that has anything to do with my lack of comprehension ...
Anyway, I'm giving Post Tenenbras Lux two mangos out of four because that's right smack-dab in the middle. A fair rating, I suppose. Maybe one day I'll go back and watch it and hopefully get a better grasp of it so I could write a more fair review.
Since I first met Reygadas until the day I die, I shall always defend this tremendous cinema master with sword and shield against the modern mainstream perspectives of moviewatching and against those people, that, incessantly, keep insulting not only Reygadas, but also his fans. Proudly, I have been called around 10 insulting names and courses, and I'm proud of it. You will play dirty, I will play dirty too: Reygadas is a master and his films are masterpieces whether you like it or not. FACT. You feel envious and frustrated because of your deplorable and laughable incapacity to raise to the surface your dead ability to appreciate art and transform it into a complimentary contribution to your own existence and to your unique perspective of the Universe, FACT.
For those finding an inherent impossibility to relate to his films and to find meaningful or valuable content, my opinion is, obviously, not a fact. And that is a fact.
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
- Ephesians 6:12
With an intrusive array of metaphysical, mysterious, terrifying, beautiful, absorbing and unforgettable imagery, Reygadas, the winner of the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival of 2012, once again confirms himself to be the Antichrist of religious idolatry, not necessarily from an atheistic point of view, and analyzes the primal conflicts of the human condition with impeccable artistry and a haunting audiovisual detail with a naturalism that almost becomes tangible to the viewer, and undeniable to the soul.
The core of this constantly shifting amalgamation of dreams, reality, allegories, of the spiritual wickedness and the rulers of this dark world, is a family of European family bonds (that's a theory) that is forced to fight, singlehandedly, against the hypocritical class struggle in a hostile rural setting, while the viewer is given symbolic hints of the evil entities that might be orchestrating this nightmarish chain of horrible acts for shaking the life of a family; hence, given the striking similarities I perceived with the tale of Job:
"And the Lord said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it."
- Job 2:2
Some unexplainable wizardry is applied in order to make a striking cacophony of the terrifying and the beautiful, of the real and the unreal. The two opening scenes remain as the most iconic:
1) A girl running through a field with animals circling around her. She happily calls the names of the animals, and the names of her closest acquaintances as if she was dreaming. It is later confirmed by her that she was dreaming, but maybe that was a dream too, or simply a fantasy of a dream. Levels of reality here are not clear. As dusk approaches, animals begin to run away scared while threatening thunders darken the sky and surround the daughter completely by tenebras.
2) A glowing demon enters into the house carrying something, slowly gliding through the bedrooms corridor until it closes the door as the kid watches curious.
These two scenes should have left something very clear to the viewer since the very beginning:
A) It was a film about conflicts, maybe from a spiritual perspective, that attempted to speak directly to the soul. The soul and the mind never come to terms of agreement. It was, therefore, a movie aimed towards the soul, which is capable of comprehending what the mind cannot.
B) Reygadas would most probably never have the intentions of clearly identifying the realms. That is your job. Nobody can compel you, of course, so that was the chance you had to walk away.
For those that stayed and loved the experience will tell you exactly one same thing: they didn't understand it. But they felt it. In that way, it becomes meaningful.
-It becomes meaningful to see a red demon in the house: "And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life." Job 2:6
-It becomes meaningful to see a family victim of not only domestic abuse because of class racism, but also of internal marital conflicts.
-It becomes meaningful to see somebody lose his head.
-It becomes meaningful to see everything from such a compromising, minimalist perspective, where sex and violence become intrusive monsters.
-It becomes meaningful to realize that, despite the apparent peacefulness of nature, nature itself is the most chaotic cycle of the planet.
-It becomes meaningful to know that not everything must be rationalized.
It becomes meaningful to change the film's title in the way you like, just like I did:
Post Tenebras Spero Lucem. "After Darkness, I Hope for Light."
There is a narrative in the film, but it gets obscured by the dreamscape. I'd love to love this, as I'm a big fan of surreal cinema, but it just doesn't work for me for the whole of 115 minutes one is made to live through it.
It's always difficult to analyse why a movie is tedious or engaging, and even more difficult to explain why certain surrealism is powerful and another feels like dadaistic nonsense. I can't do it here either, I'm afraid. i can only say that "Post Tenebras Lux" didn't swallow me inside it. It plays out like a dream but I didn't experience it as a dream of my own as you do with successful surrealism.