Silent Light (Stellet Licht) (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner07/12/2007

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 136 mins

Beautifully shot, frequently moving drama from the director of Battle In Heaven, though its pacing and length may deter all but the hardcore arthouse crowd.

What's it all about?
Set in a remote German-speaking Mennonite community in Chihuahua, Mexico, Silent Light stars Cornelio Wall as Johan, a farmer who lives with his wife, Esther (Miriam Toews) and their six children, but who is struggling with his guilt over having fallen in love with another woman, Marianne (Maria Pankratz). Johan has told Esther about Marianne and he seeks advice from his best friend (Jacobo Klassen) and his father (Peter Wall), both of whom tell him that he has to make a choice.

The Good
Silent Light is directed by Mexican film-maker Carlos Reygadas (who made Battle in Heaven) and the fact that the film opens with a six minute time-lapse shot of the sun rising and gradually illuminating the landscape should give you some idea of what to expect. Throughout the film, there are lengthy takes in which almost nothing happens and yet the effect is strangely powerful, aided by Alexis Zabe's gorgeous cinematography.

Reygadas also gets superb performances from his non-professional actors, even if some of them can't resist looking into the camera occasionally. Cornelio Wall, in particular is superb as Johan and there's strong support from both Pankratz and Toews.

The Great
Reygadas orchestrates some extremely powerful scenes, such as when Esther demands that Johan stop the car and she runs away from him into a torrential downpour. Similarly, the lengthy final sequence (before the equally lengthy closing sunset sequence) is nothing short of astonishing.

That said, both the length of the film and the deliberately slow pacing will test the patience of all but the most committed arthouse fan.

Worth seeing?
In short, if you can handle the achingly slow pacing and the punishing running time, Silent Light is an extremely rewarding film with a powerfully emotional and ultimately uplifting story. Recommended.

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Content updated: 20/08/2018 15:38

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