The Films of Carlos Reygadas

"This
is a human story," explains Reygadas. "I just wanted him to be a good man. You don’t have
to be religious to feel for others. Very often it’s the other way
around."

Johan
is conflicted throughout the film. Reygadas gives us subtle hints at
his ever-growing guilt in small pieces of naturalistic dialogue — like
when Johan asks his father not to mention his affair to his mother during
a touching, sub rosa father-son talk. The father responds later by saying,
"I wouldn’t like to be in your shoes, but somehow I also envy you."

Reygadas wanted his characters to be more human than dogmatic, capable
of doubt. "Doubt is a great quality that very often fundamentalists
don’t have," Reygadas said.

"I
didn’t know much about the Mennonites five years ago," said Reygadas.
While shooting Battle in Heaven he took several trips to their
community and developed relationships with several people. He decided
this was the perfect setting for Silent Light.
Mennonite law prohibits filming of their people, but Reygadas met several
liberal-minded people who welcomed the idea, seeing it as a chance to
preserve their culture.

Shooting
in 35 mm, and employing "special lenses" from Russia used often
in the ’60s, Reygadas imbues every frame with a sort of visual poetry.
A memorable scene where we are first introduced to Marianne takes place
on a hill. Johan and Marianne kiss passionately, and as the scene goes
on (in one prolonged take) lens flair appears. What Reygadas liked so
much about his special lenses is he knew the flairs would be unavoidable,
so he embraced them. He and cinematographer Alexis Zabe decided to use
it as expression. "Most people think it is a technical mistake, but
to me [the lens flairs] give something to the image."

The
use of sound is nothing short of brilliant. Not a single Foley sound
was used in the film. Every sound is either a direct sound recorded
in the environment or directly recorded while the shot was taken. Sound
recorder Raul Locatelli’s work here is impressive, and it gives the
film another layer of atmosphere, in no short supply in Silent Light,
a film consumed by mood and tone.

Reygadas
thought of Sleeping Beauty and Carl Dreyer’s 1955 film Ordet
while making the film. Dreyer is a huge influence on Reygadas. But he
is no mere epigone. He is a unique voice in film. Like all filmmakers,
other filmmakers and artists influence him. (When I saw Silent Light
I immediately thought of Terrence Malick’s The New World
and Days of Heaven, a comparison Reygadas disagrees with.)

"A
lot of people talk about [Malick] regarding this film, maybe because
he also shoots the countryside calmly. There’s too much action in
his films. Too much going on. I appreciate his films, I’m just not
keen on them." When asked if Malick was an influence for the film, he responded, "Uhh…. No, not really…. Uh…. I actually…. Yeah,
no."

Reygadas
believes that good films are better the more they are watched. He enjoys
finding those new, little nuances in them. These are the kind of films
he wants to make, and so far he has accomplished this in all three films.
Japon, Battle in Heaven,
and his masterpiece (for now) Silent
Light
are films that stay with the viewer, rewarding on subsequent
viewings. He believes film is much closer to music or painting (than
literature), where the art is not there to tell a story but rather to
give a feeling. The opening and closing scenes in Silent Light
would be written: the sun came up; the sun went down. In the film we
are given something truly cinematic. The image is there to be taken
in by the viewer, and what an image it is.

"Rather
than taking the spectator vicariously through someone else’s experience
and coming out of the cinema thinking, ‘What a beautiful dream, I forgot
about life for two hours and now I’m back in my miserable life,’" says Reygadas, "I’d
rather respect the spectator and realize a good spectator comes to the cinema
to live, not to forget. That’s living, feeling emotion. That’s why
I make films."

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