Vol. 11, No. 2 October 2007
 Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, Silent Light, is director Carlos Reygadas' third feature film. Set in a Mennonite community in rural Mexico, near the Texas border, the film tells a 'forbidden love' story when a married Mennonite man falls in love with another Mennonite woman. Given the religious community in which it is set, the movie deals with many explicitly religious themes, as the lead character, Johan, struggles to hold his family together despite a powerful love for another woman. The storyline takes up themes of love, temptation, and forgiveness. The action of the narrative also includes a kind of resurrection – a fantastical break from the otherwise penetrating realism of the film, to be discussed more below. In short, the film is worthy of careful study from the perspective of religion and film, and I recommend its use in the classroom when exploring closed religious communities, religious ethnography, or themes of love and forgiveness in a religious context.
 The occasion for writing this review came when I attended a screening of the film with the director in attendance to answer questions. I thought it would be helpful to list in the form of notes both interesting information gathered from the post-screening comments and some of my own reactions to the film. Reygadas is an incredibly talented, self-taught director, and I highly recommend all of his work.
 Production notes:
Notes on interpreting the film:
 Reygadas said in his comments that he was particularly attracted to setting the telling of this kind of story (the story of, as he put it, one love dying and a new one being found) in a Mennonite community because it would give the story a fairytale-like character. The homogeneity of the community allowed him to avoid having to make decisions about the occupation, social status, etc., of the characters, compared, for example, to the telling of a similar story set in a modern urban environment. Indeed, there is a sense of purity and archetypal power that the movie has as a result of this setting.
 However, the plot takes an actual fairytale turn at the very end when the wife, having died from a broken heart, is revived by a kiss and a tear from the mistress. This plot point is simultaneously intriguing and frustrating. There is, until this point, a powerful sense of human spiritual striving in the face of both natural forces and societal restrictions. In my opinion, the fairytale turn makes light of any real spiritual progress the audience or characters might have been making, but it is a provocative choice that is sure to encourage a lot of thought and discussion.
 In his comments after the screening, Reygadas emphasized that the awakening of the wife from death is to be seen in the same light as just about everything else that happens in the movie: a rainstorm, a cow lowing, a truck plowing by on the highway. For him, the 'awakening' is no more and no less miraculous than any of those other things. But I felt his style of filmmaking had already allowed me to see the world of the film from that perspective, so much so that this explicitly 'miraculous' turn had a kind of defusing power.
 The movie is book-ended with remarkable single-take, partially time-lapsed shots of a sunrise and a sunset. The tension I see in the movie can be summed up by how we interpret those shots: do they serve a storybook function of mythical beginnings and endings, or are they an anchoring in the cosmos itself, a specific powerful moment caught on camera and in time? In my experience of the film, the narrative turn of the miracle awakening saps the opening and ending of their simultaneously natural and spiritual power (the opening in hindsight and the ending by distraction). For a filmmaker whose genius, in my opinion, lies in communicating a sense of sublimity about the human condition through a cinematic realism, the fairytale plot device gets in the way of that genius. But all told, the movie is so far superior to most movie-going experiences that it is not to be missed.
JR & F
JR & F
Vol. 11, No. 2
Journal of Religion and Film 2005
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