I think that my response to putting this at number two will be hordes (two) people telling me how much I don’t get it. Silent Light, by Mexican director (I refuse to call him an auteur) Carlos Reygadas, was critically gushed over this time last year. And its just out in the States and has been critically gushed over there too. And I hated it. I and my companion came out after its ponderous two hours, looked at each other with disgust. My friend had said she wanted, as a New Years resolution, to see more arthouse films. I’ll go see anything, so I was pleased to have a companion. But Silent Light annoyed us into almost swearing off arthouse cinema forever. It certainly makes me wary when reviews use words like majesty, deliberate, transcendentalist (OK that last one should have been a clue). Its not just that Silent Light is dull. I can deal with dull but beautiful, and I cannot argue that there are moments of Silent Light which are breathtakingly beautiful. But its the moments between those two moments (the start and finish) which make up the lions share of this film, and that was a story which just didn’t grab and sort of offended me.

So the bad then (ie eleven twelfths of the film). A Mennonite community of farmers in Mexico live their slow, country god-fearing ways. It supposedly looks idyllic but for
a) knowing that things that look idyllic in films never are
b) scrub land in the middle of nowhere living a closeted life with a language only you and twenty other people speak, hating your family and wife is not my description of idyllic.
There’s a problem. I am supposed to be interested in this set-up but I am not. I have seen my fair share of Amish and other religious sects in the movies and they tend to annoy me. Their own artificial rules of life create a load of plot engines which always feel artificial and inherently patronising from a film-maker who, by virtue of being a film-maker, is an outsider.

So here there is an aching sadness, some abuse and a bizarre death sequence which is supposed to be metaphorical, or symbolic but in a film which strives for naturalism is just plain bizarre. But not bizarre in a way that is interesting. More bizarre in a way that makes you want to throw the towel in and walk out. And you can walk out quite happily before the end as it ends as it begun.

So it is only fair to talk about the twelfth that is good. Namely the first five minutes. When I say good, I mean striking. And not in a way that is original, but rather technically well done. It starts, simply, with a five minute long widescreen countryside sunrise. Crickets and cicadas screeching at us and the light slowly fades in. Its lovely if a bit like something that might work better in an art gallery and has little to do with the film. But it sets you up for the promise of something good which is slowly drilled out of you. Which is where the last five minutes come in. Because the last five minutes is the same scene in sunset. But whereas the sunrise was inspiring, by the time the last five minutes come on, you just want to leave and be done with the film.

But hey, don’t say I don’t give you anything. Here are those first five minutes so you don’t need to see the rest of the film.