Thursday, August 24, 2006

Battle in Heaven (Reygadas, 2005)

Carlos Reygadas’ Battle in Heaven has a title that is highly deceptive. It contains nothing so dramatic or beautiful as those words might suggest. Instead it is an empty, awkward film about an empty, awkward man. He and his wife have kidnapped an infant that has unexpectedly died. This might seem like an enticing set-up. However, Reygadas doesn’t show us any of this drama on-screen. We learn about it in an early conversation and then his lead spends much of the rest of the film moping about feeling guilty. The central role of Marcos is played by a non-actor named … err … Marcos and his inexperience is evident in each and every scene in which he appears. A favorite Reygadas move is to have his robot of an actor stare off into the distance while his camera pans away to …………nothing. Marcos seeks comfort in the bed of his boss’s daughter who conveniently happens to be a prostitute. Unfortunately for viewers, he also has time to get busy with his tank-like wife in an explicit scene featuring about 500 pounds of combined nakedness (don’t ask). Where is all this heading? That’s the funny part. Nowhere! Absolutely nowhere! Reygadas can’t probe the psychology of the situation because he has cast actors utterly incapable of conveying emotion or complexity. He can’t lure us in with his plot because he has none. The only card he really has to play (besides pointless sex and violence) is opacity. In his 95-minute film, Reygadas has enough content for a film about 10% of that length. The rest is cinematic vamping as Reygadas hopes to accidentally stumble upon a captivating idea, an honest moment or a meaningful image. Not good enough. Battle in Heaven is a complete waste of time.



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