I took the above image in 2009, in brighter times, whilst walking with someone I love on a common in London. Over time, I’ve collected more images of trees and skies than people, and used to take photographs of my lover when she was looking elsewhere, in turn shrinking from a reality that I did not, then, know how to live. The first impulse, as someone we miss once wrote, must be one of love, but it is too often followed by one of fear. Reygadas, in his sometimes obscene films, approaches the natural world only with bracing directness, forked like those branches tipping into the frame above: his realism shows beauty, but also much cruelty. Reygadas does not flinch in the presence of unkindness and despair, and this open gesture is admirable (however one might respond to, or value, his work).
In a recent interview about Post Tenebras Lux, Reygadas said that “when you talk about the film you talk more about yourself,” and its structural opacity invites this response. The film is, as he says, about “the domination of men”—their stupidity, their tragedy, and their violence—but, even more so, about “acknowledging the reality beyond what we can see.” The memories that hide beyond what’s seen often serve as a way of making sense of the present—a present that seems to possess, like depopulated photographs of the past, no linearity, no structure, and little reason. This is perhaps why memories tend to fail, and when we look for them the bark only twists out toward a field or up into the sky, and takes nothing of the sadness, and fear, that is still felt with it.