By Aldo Padilla
Not only has the idea of a shared cinematic universe been used in the last year by superhero movies, we can also see in Jian Zhang Ke’s Ash is the purest white how the filmmaker returns to his iconic Still Life lead character (and her famous water bottle). In another example, Happy End of Michael Haneke seems like a bad sequel of his film Amour: this failed pastiche takes elements of all of the filmmaker’s filmography without any subtlety. The case of Carlos Reygadas plays a little bit with an idea already used in his last film Post Tenebras Lux, where a couple finds a sauna where a sort of orgy with older people is happening. This is partially revisited in Nuestro Tiempo, through its protagonist couple (Juan and Ester), who keep an open sexual relationship which conceptualizes itself in multiples occasions during the film.
This idea of an open relationship is destabilized with the apparition of Phil, a friend of the family, who seems to obsess Ester and generates suspicions in Juan. The toxicity generated due to the jealousy seem to take him towards a definitive lost, such as the bull that falls in the final shot of the film. After a fight already lost, the idea of not recovering this “woman enamored with the past”, takes him to take desperate measures, like suggesting sex with other men to his partner, while he spies them in a fetishistic way, maybe not in a sexual but an affective way.
One can understand Reygadas’ decision to provoke the public when taking on the lead acting roles with his wife despite the obvious limitations of them both, while also denying any sort of autobiographical side in his film. Reygadas knows that provocation and morbid curiosity are inherent to this decision, something that also happened then Nuri Bilge Ceylan made Climates with his own wife in a tale of a tormented relationship. Here Reygadas returns to the themes of his last three films, a twisted kind of infidelity, the force of nature and the man that can’t fight it, though he tones down the intensity and radicalism, moving away from the fantastic tone of the last two films. This consolidates a filmography that looks for a dialogue between its different components.
Absolute absurdity, in a theatrical language, is the element that Rick Alverson used in his last stage as filmmaker, with films such as The Comedy (2012) and Entertainment (2015). Alverson had taken the idea of a black comedy; something now leaves behind in The Mountain, to focus in a film where a doctor practices lobotomies to cure mental pathologies, with characters that seem to function only through impulses, while an invisible hand guides them in an almost automatic way during their day-to-day events.
Tye Sheridan seems to contravene his last character in Entertainment: a clown with a limitless energy. Now, he’s an adolescent photographer whose expressivity is represented through his posture, which seems to show his different states of mind, from fear, resignation, or subordination, always watching the different women being lobotomized in search for a clue of a missing mother.
It’s difficult to look for any path in Alverson’s discourse, since it’s impossible to find something that defines The Mountain except the idea about the suppression of thought as a solution for a so-called lunacy. The film works through the idea of cruelty as a way to transmit the absurdity of people that scarcely use rationality, an absence of thinking reflected in the white walls of different hospitals and in emptiness as a form of craziness.
Directing and Script: Carlos Reygadas
Cinematography: Diego García
Editing: Carlos Reygadas
Mexico, 2018, 173 mins
Directing: Rick Alverson
Script: Rick Alverson, Dustin Guy Defa, Colm O’Leary
Cinematography: Lorenzo Hagerman
Editing: Michael Taylor, Rick Alverson
USA, 2018, 108 mins