Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
Original title: Batalla En El Cielo
Mexico/Belgium/France/Germany/Netherlands, 2005. Coproduction Office, No Dream Cinema, Mantarraya Producciones, Tarantula, Arte France Cinema, Universidad de Guadalajara, ZDF/Arte, Essential Filmproduktion GmbH, Mackey Co., Hubert Bals Fund, Fonds Sud, Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografía, Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, Lumière Productie. Screenplay by Carlos Reygadas. Cinematography by Diego Martínez Vignatti. Produced by Philippe Bober, Susanne Marian, Carlos Reygadas, Jaime Romandia. Music by John Tavener. Film Editing by Adoracion G. Elipe, Benjamin Mirguet, Carlos Reygadas, Nicolas Schmerkin. Cannes Film Festival 2005. Toronto International Film Festival 2005.
A personal driver for a Mexico City army general is sweet on his boss’s daughter, whom he has been looking after since she was a little girl. She likes to spend her days working in a boutique brothel, a secret which he keeps from her family, while he confides in her that he and his subway vendor wife kidnapped a baby from a couple they know but it has died in their care. Carlos Reygadas takes his characters to the almost otherworldly atmosphere that his films often inhabit, the ripe, sexual images at odds with the calm manner by which the criminal aspects of the story are related, plus throws in a few montage sequences of crowds and parades for added effect. There is a lot to say here about Mexican class and culture, the clashes between the sacred and the profane, but it’s all related to us through such passive characterizations that the overall effect, which likely means to be enigmatic, is obnoxious instead. The performers are commendably bold, the nudity is revealing in much more than just physical ways, but as actors they have little charisma, their faces blank walls that make it difficult to maintain connection with their situation. Reygadas need not concern himself with being entertaining, it is obvious that he intends to create provocative art, but he might do better if he didn’t try so hard to be interesting.