Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Film Review: Silent Light

I was reading about a theme that I particularly enjoy or find interesting in story when I stumbled across mention of this film. I didn't know of it before, but I decided to seek it out. I'm glad I did, because this is one of the most unusual and interesting movies I've seen in awhile.

Did you know there's a significant Mennonite population in Mexico? Apparently they moved there when Canada tried to force them to learn English instead of speaking Plautdietsch. This film centers on these people. It is the story of Johan, a man who is married with six children who is also in love with another woman. He's withheld none of this from his wife...she knows he loves their neighbor and sleeps with her. This obviously causes a great strain, a strain that is seen in actions but never often overtly spoken of. Johan has told everyone..his friend, his father, because he believes his neighbor, Marianne is a truer match for him, a better woman. Yet he loves his wife Esther for their years together and feels conflicted. This is clearly shown in the opening of the film, when his family leaves and he sobs at the table.

Silent Light is a film that takes it time. In fact, there are moments that you might think the pace so slow it's infuriating. Long shots of the land, full of the natural noises of a farm, dwarf in some ways the depiction of these humans living their lives the best they know how. While this is a faithful Mennonite community, apart from mention of the devil, this is not a film about religion at all. Johan and his family feel their beliefs deeply and are trying to work them out practically when life has thrown them such a difficult challenge. Apparently, the director used untrained actors--real people from the community he filmed and while this shows most in scenes with the children looking directly into the camera with a kind of wonder, the adults carry their performances so well you can't even tell. Understated, but intense. One of the most poingant scenes for me is when Esther confesses to Johan she wishes things could be the way they were, that she used to love to be with him but now feels so cut off from living. He tells her it's like that for him, too, and it's hard for Marianne as well. A few minutes later, a car swerves past them on the highway. "That idiot will kill someone," Johan says. "Sure Johan," Esther says in resignation, since Johan has not acknowledged in what ways he has killed her.

Well when you have such a difficult love triangle something is bound to happen. And it does. Leading to a peculiar ending open to interpretation.

This movie..for it's slow pace and full shots, will suck you in. No there's not a lot of flash or music, but it's so deeply contemplative it's been hard for me to stop thinking about it.

Completely different from anything you'll read in Amish Christian fiction, I highly recommend Silent Light.

Have you seen it? While reading reviews of this movie, many made mention that it owes a debt to Ordet another film I'll have to seek out!


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