Silent Light – Stephanie Oswald

Still image from Silent LightPhotograph by Stephanie Oswald

Photograph by Stephanie Oswald

Photograph by Stephanie Oswald

Photograph by Stephanie Oswald

Photograph by Stephanie Oswald

Photograph by Stephanie Oswald

Silent Light is a rather abstract and obscure film, but many of its themes actually feel quite real to me, or quite realistic. Part of my family comes from a region in the North East of France, on the border with Germany, where people have traditionally lived in an extremely austere way, and in which, to make a long story short – the Catholic Church has crushed many people’s lives. Forbidden love, sex and desire, and individual freedom made impossible by social rules – these are themes that are present in the film, and that I feel parts of my family must have experienced.

I have explored these themes with some of my photography in the past, and here are some photos that I took of a man’s house – a very religious man who came from the same region as me, in the North East of France (Alsace-Lorraine). The photos talk about the same themes as the film – religion, order, tidiness, men who can only be present as sacrificed beings and women who can only be present as saints. The little dolls at the beginning don’t dare to look at each other, and don’t survive the journey.

In an interview in BOMB Magazine, Carlos Reygadas said: “If you firmly believe in dogmas, you’ll never experience conflicts, but that’s reducing life to nothingness.” I very much agree with this, and I feel like Silent Light talks about a conflict that is resolved by going back to the norm, and as such, for me it’s a film about the death of the individual, and about going back to nothingness.

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Stephanie Oswald is a film programmer at the Star & Shadow Cinema and blogs at Film and Beyond.

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Post Tenebras Lux – Patrick Brian Smith

Still from Post Tenebras Lux

The Quest for the Bevel

“A bevelled edge refers to an edge of a structure that is not perpendicular to the faces of the piece.” Good old Wikipedia, providing perhaps the most succinct analysis of the thematic and visual dualities that are intrinsic to Post Tenebras Lux.

Much like Peter Taylor’s “Post Tenebras Googling” for Ballesteros, I also jumped online after the credits to find out how Reygadas crafted these refracted and distorted exterior shots. Searching went something like “Post Tenebras Lux Lense//Post Tenebras Lux Double Exposure//Post Tenebras Lux 1:33 Distortion.” My enquiry ended pretty abruptly when I stumbled on an interview with Reygadas, where he claimed to have shot the film with “a unique lens, without a name” bevelled at the edges. Mystery it seemed was seeping out of the film itself post-Post Tenebras Lux.

This mysterious bevelled lense used by Reygadas dominates almost all of the films exterior shots, contrasting then with the familial interactions that take place between Juan and his family, and concomitantly lending the latter group of images a flattened texture. Within many of these exterior shots, as characters move towards the edge of the 1:33 frame, they become refracted by the bevelling- distorting their appearance, morphing their limbs, and occasionally creating a shadow of themselves.

Why then the removal of the bevelled lense for interiors? It’s easy perhaps to suggest that the bevelling lends the image an aesthetic nicety, and given Reygada’s preoccupation with the natural world he is simply offering a beautification of this in his “nature dominant” exterior shots. Perhaps easier still is the suggestion that the bevelled refraction functions better in wider shots, not suited to tighter framing within interior locations. Indeed we can even more easily suggest that Reygadas is setting in motion a dialectical relationship between the beauty and horror of nature and domesticity respectively.

Though perhaps the reason is more simple than all these. Perhaps Juan’s character can be understood as intrinsically bevelled. The edges of his being, his extremes of violence and addiction, do not match the domestication he strives for- the edges of Juan’s character are not perpendicular to his flattened outward projection of harmoniousness- they are bevelled, he is bevelled, and ultimately this is what destroys him. Within these interior domestic interactions, the visual bevel is replace by a human, bevelled. Through Post Tenebras Lux the edges of Juan’s character fall away, bevelled into oblivion.

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Patrick Brian Smith is an MA Film Studies graduate from King’s College London and film critic for The Quietus. “Thanks go to Katie Smith, her photography knowledge pointed me in the bevel direction.”

“I want to clarify this thing about the Devil…” Carlos Reygadas video interview

In the fifth of a series of short video interviews with director Carlos Reygadas about Post Tenebras Lux, the director talks about evil, conceptualisation and the inevitable loss of innocence.

Post Tenebras Lux – Simon Ward

Still image from Post Tenebras Lux

Like Seven and Juan, I’m here in this rundown hut, to confess to my own guilty addiction. Like Juan’s internet porn problem, my addiction is rather more prosaic than Seven’s drug problem. Like Juan, I am fortunate to be born into an existence where I don’t have to worry about having enough to eat (instead I worry about eating too much), don’t have to concern myself about being beheaded or kidnapped on a daily basis (contrary to what most Londoners who never venture south of the river might think) and have come to terms with my colonial past as a half-Protestant from the Republic of Ireland. Like Juan, I’m a little embarrassed by the nature of my addiction. It’s clearly a privileged 1st World Fear. Like Juan, I’m not a big fan of Juan the man as a human being – so I’m going to stop comparing myself to him now and zero in on addiction. I don’t like Juan.

My addiction, I confess to you, is a compulsion to consume cinema. I want cinema to overwhelm me, to light up parts of me I didn’t know existed, to force me to confront the ugly and take me by the hand towards the sublime. Cinema feeds my compulsion without regard to life outside my head. It is art, entertainment, form, social comment, narrative and non-narrative pleasure. Cinema is at once stimulation, idea, comfort, seducer and consumer. Cinema is both transcendental experience and smutty joke. Cinema for me is as varied, mundane, banal and surprising as life. Hell, cinemas IS life. Seven might think it’s generally rather more comfortable than his life, and I’d be hard pushed to argue the point. I guess I’m lucky. I know I am. But I’m still addicted.

It’s taken over my life. My wife and I met through cinema. My friends are almost entirely connected in one way or another to cinema. My adult education is cinema. My daughters had better love cinema or watch out! My working life is completely dominated by cinema. Take cinema away from me and I wonder what could possibly ever fill the hole.

My father once accused my obsessive teen-love of cinema as being ‘mental masturbation’. He’s a psychiatrist so I would forgive you for thinking he knew of what he spoke. He went on to elaborate how my constant fevered consumption of film was merely getting off on second-hand emotion. That’ll be the thing called Art I thought to myself.  In retrospect I think he just wanted me to get out of the house more.

He was only half right. I get agitated when I see a powerful film and can’t rest until I have found a way to possess it once again and more permanently in my DVD collection (although I prefer the more professional sounding word ‘archive’ as it sounds less nerdy. Or does it? I’ve lost perspective). I can hear Marx breathing disapprovingly down my neck.

A film like Post Tenebras Lux makes me want to share my addiction. Juan comes to this room in the still above to somehow integrate with people from a completely different walk of life. Agendas may be different, but whatever the reasons, this surely is also what cinema does? It gives us all a place to meet, talk, experience and above all confess.

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Simon Ward is deputy director at the Independent Cinema Office.

“The film comes from direct experience of life.” Video interview with Carlos Reygadas

“Dreams are not part of the fantastic. They are part of reality.” In the fourth of a series of short video interviews with director Carlos Reygadas about Post Tenebras Lux, the director talks dreams, rugby and decapitation.

Carlos Reygadas weekend at the Ritzy cinema + Badges!

Still image from Silent Light

In advance of next week’s release of Post Tenebras Lux on 22 March, our friends at the Ritzy Picturehouse in London have programmed a Director Spotlight on Carlos Reygadas, screening the filmmaker’s three previous feature films this weekend:

Japón (2002) Friday 15 March, 18:00

Battle In Heaven (2005) Saturday 16 March, 13:50

Silent Light (2007) Sunday 17 March, 17:30

A perfect opportunity to catch up on the director’s work, each film will be screening from 35mm and we’ll be there on Friday with our new PTL badges free for early audience members!

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