Experimental film, beginning from the predominant avant-garde age, has been well respected in the world of film-making for generations, demonstrating new ideas of storytelling and innovative creativity. Filmmakers of today, whether mainstream or independent, are still fascinated by the endless boundaries of experimental film: American director Terrence Malick being a primary example. That being said, for an experimental film to ‘work’, although endless, the filmmaker must set the boundaries himself and work inside that frame, allowing the film to have more density and structure.
This is where Post Tenebras Lux fails to impress. The narrative is relatively straightforward: wealthy family man Juan (Adolfo Castro), lives in the strangely bizarre Mexican countryside with his wife Natalia (Nathalia Acevedo) and their children, living a far different life than they used to before moving, where cult and spirituality takes prominence throughout the inhabitants of the village they now live.
Taking that story, now throw in scenes of a village orgy, meaningless animal cruelty, a rugby match being played somewhere in England (what this has to do with the film is far from even vague), and an unidentified red devil that appears equipped with a toolbox along with various other distant narrative strands and you have Post Tenebras Lux, a self-indulgent and creatively absurd piece of modern cinema.
After learning that writer and director, Carlos Reygadas had been awarded the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival for the film and fascinated by the vision of the film through the strong advertising campaign that promoted it, I can honestly say daissapointment was felt with the final product. That’s not to say elements of the film weren’t strong: the introduction to the film where Juan’s daughter roams the country farm land with various animals under the multicoloured and broody sky was magnificently filmed and captured my attention straight away along with the unique style of shooting the film where the sides of the screen seem blurred as if the camera is constantly acting as our eyes to this hidden world.
The potential for Post Tenebras Lux being a memorable experimental film are clearly there, but due to Reygadas not creating sturdy boundaries for himself have caused his creative ideas to drift making the end result feel loose and exhausted. My only hope is for Reygadas to learn from his mistakes and come back with a stronger film in future: his direction isn’t the problem, it’s his own lack of rules in terms of film-making.