How can you distinguish love from possessiveness? Faithfulness from loyalty? Do we need sexual exclusivity? Is love eternal? Or maybe it's habit that makes a relationship last? asks Mexican director Carlos Reygadas, the subject of a New Horizon retrospective in 2012.
The director of Post tenebras lux, an award winner for best director in Cannes, and of Silent Light (Jury Award winner) this time tells the story of a couple who, deciding to have an open relationship, lead their marriage to the edge of the abyss. The lead roles-the incredibly jealous Juan and his partner Esther, who is getting more and more deeply involved in an affair with an American-are played by the director himself and his wife, Natalia López. They are joined on-screen by their real-life children: Rut and Eleazar Reygadas. But there is nothing exhibitionistic about Our Time; the only truly intimate aspects of the film are questions about relationships and the passion with which the director shares those questions with the audience. As it discusses themes of marriage, betrayal, fear and shame from the perspective of a man, the film is similar to the acclaimed My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgård in its power to hurt and offend.
Visually dazzling (one of the cinematographers is Diego Gárcia, who has worked with Apichatpong Weerasethakul, among others), Our Time is set in the Mexican provinces, where a family of wealthy farmers combine hard work on their ranch with a passion for art. Observing both animals and people fighting, Reygadas looks at how culture creates a dam for our instincts, how it transforms lust, aggression and passion into music or film. But it also shows the threat that technology poses to relationships today. Ease of movement (the scene with the plane landing in Mexico City will enter the annals of cinematic history) and communication (telephones and computers play a substantial role in the film) tempts us with promises of other loves and other lives.
For Reygadas, "our time" has both a private dimension (in discussing the impact of time on relationships) and a broader social dimension (in diagnosing our current era). But this is also time for us, the viewers, to enter into an intimate relationship with the film, to reflect on our own emotions and expectations, to check whether we prefer predictable, schematic narratives or if we are perhaps ready for an open relationship with the sort of cinema offered by Carlos Reygadas.
Born in 1971, Carlos Reygadas grew up in Mexico City. He studied international law but abandoned his career for cinema. He showed his first short film at a Belgian competition for independent filmmakers in 1999. Three years later, he wrote and directed Japón, his full-length feature debut. The film drew the attention of critics and won several awards at festivals in Cannes, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. His 2005 film Battle in Heaven was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Festival. Much like his debut, the film aroused a great deal of controversy, while at the same time establishing Reygadas as one of South America's most fascinating young directors. Silent Light, which he completed in 2007, deals with important issues for the director in a form closely based on classic models of metaphysical cinema. In 2010, he made the short film This is My Kingdom for the multipart film Revolución, a collection of works by young filmmakers on the subject of the legacy and consequences of the Mexican Revolution. He won the award for best director at the Cannes Festival in 2012 for Post tenebras lux, and his latest production, Our Time, premiered at the Venice Festival in 2018.
Despite the fact that he rarely makes films (he has shot just five full-length films to date), Reygadas has managed to develop his own personal style based on the challenging technique of working with amateur actors (often by encouraging them to improvise) and belief in the power of the methods of classic cinema. When speaking in interviews about his creative choices, the features that stand out are his rebelliousness, consistent approach and clarity of thought. He is an advocate of pure aesthetics, intuition and internal insight as the fundamental aspects of a director's work.