Mexican filmmaker Carlos Reygadas is part stuntmeister, part visionary—a post-Warhol impresario and trained diplomat who, flirting with fraudulence and often working without a screenplay, orchestrates conditions under which nonprofessional actors are compelled to expose themselves, sometimes cruelly, on camera. Even more than his previous films (Japón, Battle in Heaven), Silent Light is a behavioral experiment, set in northern Mexico's Mennonite community and cast almost entirely with Mennonite non-actors who speak the medieval German dialect Plautdietsch. Upright farmer Johan (Cornelio Wall Fehr), son of a preacher and father of six, is involved in and tormented by an adulterous relationship with the no-less-virtuous Marianne (Maria Pankratz). This affair, which is really a triangle carried on with the unhappy knowledge of his wife (Miriam Toews), not to mention the seeming awareness of half their insular community, ultimately upends the laws of the universe. The most startling thing about Silent Light is its bid for greatness. Everything in this relatively chaste production is monumentally deliberate, from the human interactions to the stolidly bucolic representation of Mennonite domesticity to the extraordinary wide-screen landscape shots that bracket the action with four or five minutes of pantheist ecstasy. As understated as it is, the movie is both deeply absurd and powerfully affecting.
Reygadas preserves the mystery in adultery.
Runs at Northwest Film Forum, Fri.,March 27–Thurs., April 9. Not rated.127 minutes.