26 February 2009

At the movies: Silent Light (Stellet Licht).

In an isolated Mennonite community in Mexico, the farmer Johan is having a crisis of the faith and of the flesh. Though devoted to his wife, the mother of his children and the rock of his house, he has fallen in love with another woman, a development he openly shares with his wife. Believing this new love to be a divine gift, he is torn between the two women, and tumult arises within Johan’s house and in the community.

Silent Light survived the implosion of its domestic and U.K. distributor just based on reputation and the reports of several dazed film festivalgoers. Slowly, it has been creeping through theatres and museums throughout the country with the quiet grace of its opening and closing shots, a paired sunrise and sunset that envelopes the viewer. Acts of nature become sensual seductions, and we see daybreak and nightfall as acts of love on a planetary scale.

Built around the iconography of Carl Theodor Dreyer and with more on its mind about the intersection between the sacred and the profane than any film since Breaking the Waves, this is the cinematic event of Nashville’s first quarter of 2009.

This film is a gift. It does everything we could ask of art cinema, immersing the viewer in something alien yet completely universal. Its beauty strikes a chord deep within, and it triggers that intrinsically human response when in the presence of greatness; awed silence, and a sense of something immense and timeless, not understandable in the concrete, but warm and filling in the abstract.

Silent Light fills the spaces that dogma and human weakness have chipped away over the years. See it, and evolve.

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