Carlos Reygadas: Intimacy & The Light After Darkness

Mexican filmmaker Carlos Reygadas speaks to Simon Jablonski about his latest film Post Tenebras Lux, for which he won the Best Director award at Cannes Film Festival 2012

A small girl toddles after cattle on a Mexican farm — then a devil, glowing bright red, enters a house carrying a toolbox. The fascinating Post Tenebras Lux is definitely Carlos Reygadas’s most cerebral film; a steady observation of his world, its crimes and beauty. “Some people think it’s about the evil being loose and doing it’s terrible deed in the world. For me it’s very much about the loss of innocence. In the film the only ones that are happy and in peace are the plants and the animals and the children. The devil is a thing of the adults.”

The contrast between nature and humans is repeated from his debut film, Japón. Reygadas meditates on the landscape, breathing with the trees, as if to show the daily dramas of the people at the centre as absurd by comparison. “I have to say I’m not a misanthropist. I actually like human beings very very much, but I do acknowledge that human beings are sick, probably me too.”

“In Mexico the westerners are traditionally alone in solitude and aggression. And that way we live in patriotism and sport and war, and we have iPhones because we are so afraid of our own solitude. Then the non-westerners are fucked up for other reasons, because their culture was devastated by colonialism. So is more that I’m stating a case for disorder rather than despising human beings.”

Though filmed in his own house using his friends and neighbours, Carlos is keen to separate the closeness of the film from notions of intimacy. “They’re not my thoughts of who am I, they’re thoughts of what I see; they’re what you think of others, not what you think of yourself. So this film, though it’s the most personal, it’s not the most intimate.”

Carlos Reygadas on set, Post Tenebras Lux

Carlos Reygadas courtesy of Independent Cinema Office

Carlos’s delightfully stark and unglossed portrayal of sex is shown again with a sauna orgy. It’s no surprise that sex never appears as some added titillation, but is part of the whole fabric and politics of the film. “Intimacy doesn’t reside, as most shallow bourgeoisie think, in your own world, or in your penis, that’s not intimate, that’s just a piece of skin. Intimacy is inside, intimacy really is your values. Intimacy resides deep inside your soul, not in your body. Some people think exposing yourself is a terrible violation of intimacy. That’s not intimacy at all, it’s fucking convention.”

And so with one romp in the shower, he both downplays and elevates sex in life and cinema. “Eating, drinking, having sex with others are basically the most important things we do in life. We’re told to follow certain sexual rules because strong emotions are tried to be controlled. I think we have tried to control sex so much that this time of humankind we have the least sex ever. In that way we have so much pornography and so much promotion of sexuality visually. You see the news or any kind of stupid television programme and everyone is looking like a pornstar, it’s ridiculous.”

Carlos Reygadas’s perspective of the world in Post Tenebras Lux might be severe or even bleak, but it’s sincere, scenic and endlessly wonderful.

Post Tenebras Lux is out in cinemas from 22 March. Read more about the film