LIFF26 - Post Tenebras Lux - Cinema Review

'Reygadas aspires to be a director who singularly fails to lead his audience by the hand. In this aspiration he has completely succeeded'

After Darkness Light runs the literal translation of Carlos Reygadas's film and, indeed, at the point the trip switch on the projector blew, plunging Leeds Townhall into said gloom, his title seemed to have been taken rather literally by the higher powers of electricity and properly regulated current.

Not all of the audience were delighted when Reygadas' titular prediction fulfilled its destiny and the projector bulb clicked back into existence. Whilst occasionally hypnotic and undoubtedly beautiful to look at, Post Tenebras Lux is also highly challenging and occasionally brutal.

Scenes of animal cruelty flick through a film that does not feel confined by structure or the need to tell a story. As Reygadas himself says in the press notes, he aspires to be a director who singularly fails to lead his audience by the hand. In this aspiration he has completely succeeded.

The director also succeeds, with the help of cinematographer Alexis Zabe, in making Post Tenebras Lux look astounding. Early scenes of young Rut running around fields bookended by pastel skies are fantastic, the location eventually becoming a thunder plain, as the titles appear word by word on blacked out heavens, streaked in purple.

But, here as well as elsewhere, Reygadas and Zabe seem to go out of their way to alienate the audience. Post Tenebras Lux is occasionally shot using a lens which creates a view almost like a fish-eye effect. At first, as we follow a donkey through the trees, it seems that this lens is used to single out point-of-view shots, but very quickly it becomes the norm, a constant annoyance, as the sides of the already narrow aspect ratio blur and duplicate.

The point of Reygadas' piece seems to be to show our dual natures; like Rut at the start in harmless pastures, we are able to offer Lux but soon comes the Tenebras and the scene changes. Lead character Juan (Adolfo Jiménez Castro) is shown as part of a warm family unit but then, soon after, he beats one of his dogs and his (our?) dark nature rises to the surface.

The cyclical light and dark repeat again and again throughout the film but the light isn't light enough and the dark is occasionally alienating. The floating story (which seems to span time whenever it wants to) is too obtuse to get a grip on and the annoying lens work doesn't encourage you to try. An enigma; beautiful and ugly, light and dark.

The 26th Leeds International Film Festival runs from 1st November to 18th November at venues around the city. Programming includes several UK premières, the popular Night Of and Day Of The Dead and a selection of competition films in the Official Selection.


  1. Lovely write up. I really like the way that although you didn't particularly like the film, your review can remain nuanced and try to capture the mood. I actually really fell for it; I was captivated for its two hour run time and thought its theme of illustrating man's self defeating tendency to be trapped by various vices, regardless of race or class was told clearly and concisely, albeit in somewhat of a relentlessly soul destroying manner.

    1. Thanks Michael, very kind of you to say so. It's a difficult film to rate because at times it did really grab me. Those opening shots are lovely and there were other areas where, like you, I could see myself falling for it. The problem for me was whenever one of those moments came, it was quickly followed by a moment I didn't care for and couldn't connect with, which is part of the point I suppose. Glad you enjoyed it!