Sarasota 2013: ‘Post Tenebras Lux’ Review


Film Pulse Score

Release Date: May 1st, 2013 (Limited)
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 7/10

Attempting to write a cohesive and informative review for Carlos Reygadas’ Post Tenebras Lux is proving to be as difficult and baffling as the film itself. This is a film that will, and already has, divided critics almost right down the middle.  Some will applaud the film for its breathtaking visuals and experimental style while others will condemn it as a perplexing mess of surreal imagery that comes off as being more pretention than brilliance. Unfortunately, I’m going to cop out and not choose one side or the other and propose that there are valid points to both arguments.

On the surface, Post Tenebras Lux is about a wealthy family living in rural Mexico and the various domestic and societal conflicts they encounter.  Much of the film also looks at the relationship between the human race and the natural world through some truly outstanding cinematography. 

The visuals are proven within the first moments of the film, which involve a ridiculously adorable girl wondering around a muddy field amongst cows, dogs, wild horses, and donkeys.  This scene sets the stage for the rest of the film both in style and tone.  The camera is constantly moving and pulling in close to the girl, then shifts in front of her, almost as if it’s a POV shot. Everything in this film looks beautiful, even the ugliest of moments, which there are a number of.

There’s also an interesting choice of lenses used throughout the film that adds a blur and replicates a circular perimeter of the frame.  This may sound like it would get annoying, however it’s not used the entire time, and often makes everything feel that much more dreamlike.

The film doesn’t adhere to any form of narrative or structure in any way, and consists of what amount to series of sometimes-interconnected vignettes that range in quality and absurdity.  Some of the fragments are more grounded and part of the larger story as a whole, and some are simply bat-shit weird.  A red glowing CG devil and bathhouse orgy scene are two that will certainly spark the most conversation, however there are many strands of this puzzle that can be explored and interpreted.  Unfortunately, much of the film feels bloated and while it’s all a marvel to look at, because of it’s broken up structure, many will likely find themselves checking their watches to figure out how much of this is left.

Post Tenebras Lux translates to “Light After Darkness” and that proves to be a fitting title for this film.  We’ll be given something that is hard to swallow followed by a delightful scene involving the two main children in the movie who are absolutely incredible.

Whether you buy into the more absurd aspects of this film or not, it’s the visuals that should make you gravitate to it.  It’s unfortunate that it couldn’t be delivered in a tighter package or this would be a lot easier to recommend.