Frustrating film by Mexican director Carlos Reygadas, about a Mennonite farmer who bears the burden of falling in love with another woman, despite the fact that everyone around him–including his wife and father–knows what’s going on.
What could have been a sluggish melodrama becomes a quiet meditation on the guilt of knowing that true love doesn’t always come when expected, or at the most opportune times. Instead of outright hate and resentment, the farmer finds himself surround by people suffering their own silent torment. This is a stunning film to watch, as Reygadas fills his frames with bright, natural light to illuminate the internal struggles of his characters. The cinematography, capturing the harsh desolation of the Mexican landscape, is some of the best I’ve seen. And you’ll find it impossible not to marvel at the five minute opening shot of a sunrise (mimicked in reverse at the end).
But, as I said, this is a frustrating film. Reygadas is clearly a gifted filmmaker, but he doesn’t quite know when to end his extraordinary shot compositions. He holds on a moment…and then holds and holds and holds, stretching scenes to the breaking point. As a result, the film feels overlong. He uses establishing shots that go nowhere, and strange non-sequitur inserts that do nothing to further the story. And the ending, which rips a page direct from Bergman’s masterpiece Cries & Whispers, is maddeningly oblique.
Still, Silent Light is a compelling film, made all the more realistic by Reygadas choice to use actual Mennonite farmers instead of real actors; if he had simply exercised a bit more restraint in the editing room, it could have been great.