Stabbing, pissing and explicit blowjobs notwithstanding, the most striking scene in ‘Battle in Heaven’ is of the lead, Marcos, watching football on telly. With the action reduced to worshipful slow-motion and the soundtrack blaring loud with mournful, martial trumpet and drums, we see the players as Marcos sees them: heroic, warrior-like, superb. Even so, it comes as a shock to realise he’s masturbating over the image but this is typical of a film that draws us inside its protagonist’s head with remarkably assured power yet makes no pretence of explaining him. As a sustained exercise in first-person filmmaking Carlos Reygadas’ second feature after ‘Japón’ is a tour de force; as narrative, it raises more questions than it answers.A big man of few words, Marcos (Marcos Hernández) is chauffeur to a General and his family in Mexico City, including beautiful daughter Ana (Anapola Mushkadiz), whom he drives to the bijou knocking shop where she sometimes works (a phenomenon, well documented in Mexico). Marcos and his equally hefty wife Berta have also kidnapped and accidentally killed a baby; even as he confesses this to Ana, however, Marcos’s placid demeanour gives only the barest hints at their motivation or the ultimately devastating internal struggle the episode has triggered in him.The subject matter is sensational, even surreal, yet Reygadas’ detached presentation – including outstanding naturalistic sound design – is of a piece with Marcos’s reserve. The lens and mic are, more or less, his eyes and ears: as he ferries Ana we hear her talk but watch the road; if he stares at the scenery – or a wall – for 15 seconds, so do we. This is a corporeal cinema: just as the subjective mode lets us feel the weight and inertia of Marcos’s frame, flesh features prominently as subject matter, from Ana’s gorgeous body to Marcos and Berta’s monumental heft. Like so much else in the film, from extreme behaviour to symbols of church and state, their folds and mounds are displayed rather than loaded with obvious meaning. Reygadas shows us Marcos’s world; to understand it is another matter.
Battle in Heaven
|Release date:||Friday October 28 2005|
Cast and crew