• Silent Light is a story set in a Mennonite community in Mexico. Reygadas uses non-professional actors who speak Plautdietsch- a dialect used by Russian Mennonites. Johan (Cornelio Wall) is ravaged by guilt over his affair with Marianne (Maria Pankratz). His wife Ester is played by Miriam Toews.
  • The genre is melodrama, but the style is undoubtedly dedicated to realism.
  • Reygadas uses 35mm and 2.35 : 1 aspect ratio.

Carlos Reygadas’ Silent Light starts and ends with two of the strongest shots in 21st century cinema. To open the film, the camera pans across the stars in the sky from left to right at dawn.

Reygadas pushes the camera forward slowly through the shadows of the trees that cut up the sky. The audio has the hum of crickets as the sunrise enters.

This is Gone with the Wind and Days of Heaven. Reygadas captures this all in one five-minute transcendent shot.

  • After the opening shot, the film cuts to the clock- these Mennonites are early to rise and work.

This grand achievement in photography is not resigned to the exterior work only- Reygadas frames the interiors like Distant Voices, Still Lives from Terence Davies, Safe from Todd Haynes or Gertrud from Carl Theodor Dreyer.

Reygadas makes an uncomplicated shot of Johan sitting at the head of a kitchen table into a painting. Ester is standing with her arm resting of Johan.

  • Reygadas is very deliberate. At the 13-minute mark we are still at the second scene. His camera pushes forward on the table tracking in on Johan crying at the head of a table. This is an immaculate opening 15-minutes.
  • Chloe Zhao’s The Rider and Nomadland feel like the part of the lineage here. These are non-professional actors- realism (no music), magic hour work and cowboy hats.

At the 57-minute mark a composition worthy of Vincent van Gogh’s “The Haystacks”, “The Harvest” or his wheat field work.

  • Reygadas uses pace and reoccurring formal camera movements. He tracks forward constantly- the mechanic shop, the shower.
  • Realism again with the long, uncomfortable holds. Like the long take kiss with Marianne.
  • This is a family crisis- and a personal spiritual crisis for Johan. There is the family at stake, his faith, and all the while he has the background duty of work (captured in the routine here- tractors, cows in long conscious sequences).
  • At the 92-minute mark another long take- a set frame composition of the lone car on the highway. It is “a massive attack of the heart”. This is a sad film- one sympathizes for Johan, for his wife, for Marianne- everyone involved.

Reygadas’ simple but striking arrangements

a breathtaking composition

  • They “seal her”- the funeral. Reygadas shoots this from the outside of the window. Then at the 112-minute mark there is the whiteout room with accent red carpet. This is Ordet– this is a jaw-dropper of a sequence. The kiss from Marianne and Ester rises in a long take. This is biblical – this is Breaking the Waves.

a long take sequence capturing the action from outside the window- patience and austerity

  • a sort of spectacular minimalism

the simple, yet potent dawn and dusk opening and closing. Reygadas again pushes the camera forward. These are the same two trees and the same five-minute shot as the camera pans from right to left this time.

  • A Masterpiece