Thursday, February 24, 2011

Carlos Reygadas - Battle in Heaven (2005)

Despite what the title will have you believe, there are no battles here outside of the internal struggles with the main character, Marcos, who is most assuredly not in heaven. Maybe some ironic titling? I went into this one blind so I wasn't expecting so much eroticism (the movie opens with a scene of hardcore fellatio being performed and there is hardcore porn and overt nudity throughout), but it ended up being quite central to the film from an obtuse angle and almost contrasting with the austere tone of the plot and the characters, aside from the general's daughter, Ana, who works in a bordello. Despite the fact that the obese, confused, guilt-stricken main character is just so detached, the sex scenes (all involving him) often come across as lethargic and emotionless, perhaps adding and not contrasting to the tone of the film. I think it would require another viewing to decide for sure, as I was a little tired while watching this, but this is one of those films that doesn't beg for a revisit; once is enough. The acting is top notch and natural, and the directing is unique, with extended, slow panning, almost indifferent shots of the purlieus, and often close ups of the unflinching characters to give clues to their latent emotions/agendas.

At first glance, Marcos, the main character appears to be entirely devoid of emotion, like some sort of farm animal, but soon we come to find out why. He and his wife kidnapped a baby for ransom and the baby ending up dying in their care. This puts a tremendous amount of guilt and mental stress on Marcos and explains his remote behavior and wandering, lost expressions throughout the film as well as his eventual mental deterioration towards the end. At it's core though, the only character with any real depth or development (if you could call it that) is Marcos, and it's a character study with a low-key, minimalistic plot centered around him, the events leading up to the his situation with the kidnapping, the unfortunate aftermath of the these events, and perpendicular to all of this, his unconditioned love for his general's daughter whom he has known since she was child and has apparently secretly had feelings for an undisclosed period of time. The climax and the finale take the nature of the already bizarre plot and just decide to run with it as things begin to tragically fall apart.

All in all, nothing too special, but it had its faculties and it used them well for what it was trying to accomplish. I could see how it could be perceived by others as boring and directionless, but maybe I'm biased as I thought the film was worth it alone for Anapola Mushkadiz's pulchritudinous breasts, which made up for any shortcomings I might have otherwise had qualms with. A good, and definitely unconventional one, but too devoid of substance to lump into the great-tier category.

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