“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”
Carlos Reygadas (Japon, Battle in Heaven) directs his camera toward the beautiful countryside located in Northern Mexico to capture a simple story in Silent Light, recently released on DVD by Palisades Tartan.
From the exquisitely shot opening sequence that reveals the sun rising over a rural Mennonite community in Chihuahua, Mexico, the audience knows right away they are in for a uniquely beautiful and pensive film.
As the sun slowly raises, the sound of birds, the slight rustle of the leaves in the trees as a breeze drifts past gradually gives way to the sounds that are inside of Johan’s home (Cornelio Wall). We see the family, gathered in stone silence at the table as they are engaged in unspoken prayer before breakfast. Hardly a word is spoken as the family finishes the meal and his wife Esther (Miriam Toews) depart with the children for an errand.
In the silence, Johan sits alone at the table and ever so steadily dissolves into tears. It is through this simple action that it is revealed that life isn’t as simple as it seems in this rural religious community.
We soon learn that Johan is involved in an affair with another Mennonite woman named Marianne (Maria Pankratz). While Mennonite life is conservative and restrained, the passionate love and desire he feels for Marianne threatens to not only tear his marriage and family apart, it pulls at the very seams of the community in which they all reside. They steal away whenever free time from his work in the fields and responsibilities with his family presents itself but these brief moments are just not enough.
Johan consults with his father who confides that he too was in a similar situation early in his marriage but doesn’t provide Johan with a definitive way to resolve what is in his aching heart. He knows that Johan is going to have to arrive at a decision for himself.
Of course, I am not going to reveal the conclusion of this film in this review. I am going to let you discover that for yourself.
Silent Light is simply a beautifully shot and gracefully paced meditation on guilt and passion. Reygadas used non-professional actors from the area which is very reminiscent of Italian Neo Realism films from the 40’s and 50’s. While they are non-professional, you will be amazed at the completely natural and truthful performances Wall, Towes and Pankratz deliver in this film.
The cinematography by Alexis Zabe (An Eruption of Ice, Duck Season) has to be seen to be truly appreciated. If I had to pick one word: stunning.
Silent Light is an achingly gorgeous film that feels like a sip of cool water on a scorching day. Add it to the queue immediately or just add it to the collection. This film is a cinematic oasis.
The film is presented anamorphic widescreen. The colors are vibrant and the black levels are very respectable. The overall detail is decent and I did not notice any instances of grain or artifacts.
The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 in the original language (German and Spanish) with English subtitles. The dialogue is crystal clear and well mixed with the ambient sounds captured in the shooting location.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The film is presented in a standard amaray case with art taken from the original poster designs. The art is subtle and even sparse similar to the look of the film itself.
Bonus features included in this release are a Making of Featurette that while standard, fans of this film and fans of the director will certainly enjoy.
Interviews with the cast are offered and we learn that Cornelio Wall has an interesting day job. Also offered are Deleted Scenes and notes on the film by Jason Woods provide some useful insight into the style and intent of Reygadas with this film and his other cinematic offerings.
Overall (Not an average) 7.5/10
The Movie 8.5/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio 7.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7.5/10