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As a Mexican, it is very exciting for me to find new proposals for
Mexican modern films.
Unfortunately, must of the current Mexican movies are taking the same Hollywood recipe: beautiful actors, violence, soundtracks of well known Latin groups... Batalla en el Cielo does not follow this. The director, Carlos Reygadas, is a person that really wants to show what he has in mind, and does not care about considering distracting elements for having a greater impact in the audience.
I am against the use of sex for attracting audience to a film. However, I really think that some (not all) of the sex scenes of this movie were really part of the story. Also, showing sex as it is (not always as idealistic and esthetic as Hollywood has taught us) is an interesting proposal!
I consider that one of the main achievements of this movies is to show many cultural traits of my country:
-The view of the Catholic religion as a resource to erase the mistakes one has made: "you can do whatever you want, don't worry about the effects because God will always help you"
-The notorious gap between rich and poor people: when Ana refers to Jaime's servant as "la gata" in such a despective -but common- way.
-The double morale managed by Mexican: how can a prostitute, as Ana, can be a moral leader over Marcos's acts?
-The informal commerce (Marcos and his wife sold merchandise in the subway).
-The love for soccer (what can I say about that, if I love it?)
-Cheating on your partner
-The lifestyle in Mexico City, with its traffic jams, way people behave in the subway, neurotic people, kidnaps.
All the issues above are part of the Mexican life.
Personally, I consider the following opportunity areas:
-Not all the music that was used was OK. Sometimes it was too "belic" for me , but at least it is according to the scenes and most of it does not follow the marketing intentions to make you buy a soundtrack
-The audio quality should have been improved (it was not easy to understand, even for people used to the way people from Mexico City speak!)
-Some (very few!) parts were too slow... but considering Reygadas's style, I might think that it is part of his professional charm.
I like to see a different proposal. I would recommend this film to people that, at the time that they leave the theater, really want to think about human nature, rather than thinking if it was an erotic or violent film.
I hope my comment has been useful...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Much has been made of the gratuitous opening sequence in Reygadas latest picture. Allow me to dispel any fears, this is the most beautiful and resonant pre-title sequence in the past decade. We see the nude Carlos' head and chest and sense it's the prurient cliché of the study of a man's naked soul. Reygadas lulls us into this feeling and then slowly pans down to dissolve our preconceptions. The beautiful music beats giving a real sense of emotional turmoil and we pans down to see the almost child-like (in terms of size beside Marcos) Ana administering fellatio. What could have simply been dismissed as shock tactics is undermined by the unsexiness of the sequence and the music which reaches crescendo as the bored Marcos attains orgasm. The black screened title sequence comes at the peak of the music, we are hooked entirely and excited by the emotional resonance produced by the two protagonists about whom we know nothing about. The film is littered with moments wherein the music reaches such a pitch that we cannot but feel for these ostensibly detached and remote characters, and therein lies Reygadas skill. The film works on a number of levels, parallels are drawn between the rife kidnapping problems in Mexico City and Jesus experiences spent in Hell in the 3 days following his Crucifixion. In Edinburgh Reygadas and his actress Anapola Mushkadiz talked and it was interesting to find how autobiographical his film is. The characters retain their own names and the lead Carlos actually was Reygadas father's chauffeur for many years (and an untrained actor). Anapola Mushkadiz, who is a quiet little phenomenon, has never previously acted and showed little ambition to do so again, attributed her performance entirely to Reygadas. Clearly one of the best current directors with influences of Antonioni and Tarkovsky, he curiously reflected that his next film would be happier, curious his sure touch for the darker reaches in everyday life. Rarely does so subtle and out-right thought-provoking a film get made.
This not an easy picture. It requires Patience and commitment. It's a poetic movie about the urban heaven. About real people. About love and about madness. Reygadas is truly an author. He turns a conventional history in to a great ride through emotions, feelings and in to the overwhelming city of Mexico. Either you love it or hate it, no one comes out of the theater without a comment or a reaction. The movie has the power to move you in a positive or in a negative way. And i guess that something to be thankful about. Mexican films, in recent years, are mostly easy going urban comedies. This totally different. A prove that we can make different stories that reflect the sometimes surreal life of our country. This is one of them. With no professional actors, the movie feels honest and. The cast it's in a very natural level. The Sex scenes are not as important as they seem. Sex is finally a part o who we are, and we are use to see great bodies making love on the screen. It's not easy to see real people doing it, because we may see ourselves in them. And when someone throws your reality at your face, you can hate it. But Batalla En el Cielo does that and even more: Takes that reality to another lever and turns it in to poetry. And that it's just fantastic.
For two thirds of this film I was spellbound and then it suddenly span away from me. Listening to the director speaking afterwards, I think I know what went wrong and I shall have to view again some time to find out. It is all very watchable but slightly confusing towards the end, which is a shame and may be my fault, that of the director or even of Mexico itself. Whilst I have never been to the country it did seem that part of the lifeblood of this movie was the tangled city of contradictions itself. Even though not perfect in my eyes there was enough to show that this is a director of keen and original talent who will produce much more. His liking to work with non actors is welcome and his treatment of actual graphic sex is stunning. Very affecting, bitter sweet movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Boring. A plot that doesn't move, but rather seems situational.
Instants of good cinematography, but you see them all in the trailer.
Acting that could be portrayed by dead people. Sex that you wish was
done by dead people. I thought I was over 2 hours into the movie and
checked the clock - just past an hour. Yeesh! Avoid, unless drinking
(OH! I see IMDb wants more review than that - okay, **spoiler warning**)
A physically gross guy getting a BJ from a cute thing. She sheds a tear - why? You won't find out. Offscreen, his wife and he had stolen and accidentally killed a baby - why? You won't find out. But she was tired of hearing the mother, her friend complain. Callous (and not so bright to boot) -- Why? You won't find out. Ultimately the guy seeks redemption through religion - and gets it! Why (even though murder is a "deadly sin" and cannot be redeemed)? You won't find out.
Don't waste your time.
Set in Mexico City, Carlos Reygadas' provocative Battle in Heaven
reflects the contradictions of the teeming megalopolis of 20 million, a
beautiful city of stately old buildings and tree-lined suburbs, yet one
in which 3,000 kidnappings take place each year with most perpetrators
getting away with their crimes. In the film, a Catholic and a seemingly
good man commits criminally perverse acts, a wealthy young woman
engages in prostitution for fun, and a loving couple of limited means
kidnap a baby for ransom from an equally poor family. Like French
director Bruno Dumont, Reygadas' cinema is predominantly physical and
there is little dialogue, narrative thrust, or explanation of the
contradictions. Portrayed by non-professional actors, the main
characters, like Bressonian models, show little emotion, and the film
often feels like a study of flawed humanity shot by an observer from
Marco (Marcos Hernandez) has been a chauffeur for a General of the Army for fifteen years. His unnamed wife (Bertha Ruiz) hawks alarm clocks and pastry in a metro station. Both are middle-aged, unattractive, and overweight, the antithesis of Hollywood glamor. The film is framed by sexual acts, and explicitly realistic Dumont-like sex is sprinkled throughout, apparently designed to tweak our level of comfort rather than turn us on. As part of his job, Marcos chauffeurs the elite General's rebellious young daughter Ana (Anapola Mushkadiz) around town and he is the only one who knows about her secret life, turning tricks in a brothel. To clear the air and perhaps to receive some of her favors, Marcos admits to her that he and his wife kidnapped the baby of a friend and that the baby died accidentally.
Transcending racial taboos and class differences, Ana agrees to have sex with her driver but tells him to turn himself in to the police. Persuaded by his wife, however, he decides to wait until after the procession of Catholics to the shrine of the Lady of Guadeloupe. In Battle in Heaven, the brilliant cinematography of Diego Martinez Vignatti conveys powerful images of beauty juxtaposed with scenes of ugliness. Marcos, deep in concentration while driving on a beautiful day, is cursed and spat upon in a scene of road rage, the music of Bach's elegant Concerto in D minor blares at a tawdry gas station, and a scene of touching farewell is suddenly marred by an unspeakable crime.
Unique and disturbing, Battle in Heaven is full of shock and awe, but it is the awe that remains after the final credits. Amoral and violent, unfulfilled by sex, Marcos seeks redemption. In abject sin, hooded, crawling on his knees to the Basilica, he joins a group of marchers he once called "a flock of sheep" and, in the moment where pure light and pure darkness merge, we discover once again that grace is everywhere.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Battle in Heaven stops being interesting to watch every time the
director decided to put in a scene or shot that doesn't add up to the
The tragic life and the somewhat perverse feelings of belonging that Marco has is clear from the beginning of the film. And in the first few scenes this state of being is depicted very clear and immersing.
Yet as soon as the film starts developing towards the point that Marco's unclear conscious starts to conflict, and his desire for Ana get's more troublesome. The movie loses track of a storyline and every time you think you grasp what is going on, the director put's in another shot that absolutely doesn't make sense and raises questions. (Why o why did they put in the close up of Ana's vagina, it was pretty though).
The problem of this movie is not that it lacks constituents for a storyline, but that it has to many undetermined parts that explain the "why?" especially in relation to Marcos. Too much is left to the viewers interpretation resulting in me not really knowing what was going on.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is a shameful example of the Mexican industry. We have so many great movies, I can't understand how this film has managed to be shown in the theaters at an international level. the beginning was well made, it caught my attention the unusual message it portrayed, but it went downhill from there. The story was terribly narrated, the sex was awful, it just failed to transmit the message I guess it has: how decadent life is. I know there are ways to show sex scenes in an artistic way, it was great to show normal looking people in their intimacy, but this was just horrible. It seemed as if the director thought: OK, here is an open scene of some roofs, why don't we add some sex here? Oh look! a bedroom, let's have the two fat actors have sex here! OK, the movie is ending, but we have extra film, I know, let's have her give him a blow-job in heaven and declare their mutual love after he stabbed her to death. The acting was so obviously forced that it is ridiculous. The director tried to show how common people are in Mexico, but this is just bad. Even the accent the actors used in their speech sounded false. The camera angles, the supposedly artistic scenes were so repetitive and badly done. All the movie seemed to have been done forcibly. It was terrible, but I guess it got a decent rating here because of the free sex and the shots of a man's erection and a girl's vagina.
Battle in Heaven is an epic adventure in film in the urban world. It
thrusts the viewer into many small worlds without fully explaining each
world or how they are connected. You must be open and receive this film
or you might be frustrated. The camera-work is radical in style yet
actually slow and simple. It's just that nobody takes this truly
panoramic approach. The use of music is also powerful and moving.
Reygadas has really proved himself a force in cinema with this film.
Thematically, the film touches on many views -- one example if the fact that almost everyone looks ugly in this film, yet not repulsive. There is also a sense of raw sexual abandonment despite the lack of eroticism.
As well, the film deals with Mexican nationalism, and its Catholicism, and the army, in ways that will have relevance for Mexicans. There is beauty in this movie and the feeling of life's inherent tragedy. Decadence is present and evil casually introduced as an aside. You will also be awed by the bravery of the actors and moved by the raw and close-to-real sex acts.
As the director probably hoped, the opening and closing blow job scenes gained this film a great deal of notoriety and attention that far exceeded the publicity such a turgid, self-consciously 'arty' film would normally receive. This unrelentingly ugly and frequently agonisingly boring film is about a couple of days in the life of a man who shags his bosses daughter and who, with his wife, has kidnapped a child (for no explained reason). At times this has the artless artiness of such trash auteurs as Doris Wishman, but give me Doris' 'Deadly Weapons' over this tedious trash any day! Pretentious and dull this is a pastiche of art house world cinema and does not warrant your time
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