Carlos Reygadas

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Carlos Reygadas
Carlos Reygadas Tokyo Intl Filmfest 2009.jpg
Reygadas at the Tokyo International
Filmfest in 2009
Born (1971-10-10) October 10, 1971 (age 44)
Mexico City, Mexico
Occupation Film director, producer and screenwriter
Years active 1997 - present

Carlos Reygadas (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈkarlos reiˈɣaðas]; born October 10, 1971) is an acclaimed Mexican filmmaker. His four films – Japón (2002), Battle in Heaven (2005), Silent Light (2007), and Post Tenebras Lux (2012) – have made him one of Latin America's most prominent writer-directors. His work is known for its expressionistic style, his alluring use of cinematography and emotionally charged images.

Influenced by existential philosophy and art, Reygadas' movies constitute a spiritual journey into the inner world of his main characters, through which one is able to explore everlasting themes of death, love, human suffering, and the ultimate purpose of life. Likewise, Reygadas' constant use of long takes and wide shots depict the sublime as an aesthetic quality found in nature, that can manifest itself both as a terrifying vital force and in the most subtle of ways. In this regard, he has opted to shoot all but one of his films in CinemaScope and use an unconventional editing technique that greatly contributes to the lyrical quality of his film narrative.

One of Reygadas' most characteristic elements is his extraordinary use of non professional actors. For him, cinema is closer to photography than to the dramatic arts and hence he is more interested in capturing the essence of his characters through the person he films, than this individual's acting ability. This of course can be traced to Italian Neorealism conception of cinema and thus is a feature found in many independent movies. What makes Reygadas' films unique in this respect, however, is his ability to fully engage with his actors and guide them through an internal process by which they are able to embody scenes that are extremely demanding both physically and emotionally. For him, the relation between a director and his actors is a complete vote of confidence, for they both take a risk together and enter an adventure that can have different outcomes: "Pretend I'm a climber and invite you to the Everest. I tell you that I have gone twice and there are certain risks : you can have a stroke , fall or die because of an avalanche . You decide whether or not to go up with me . And that's it ." [1]

Reygadas' first film, Japón (2002), revolutionized Mexican cinema not only by defying the conventions of dramatic structure, but also by inventing a new cinematographic language that reflects the sensorial world we inhabit and is able to express life as an trascendental experience. The film's title itself questions a simplistic correlation between signifier and signified for although it is named after Japan, this island country it is never portrayed or mentioned in any way throughout the movie. Quite the contrary, the story is set in an remote impoverished town in the state of Hidalgo that evidences of the harsh reality of this region but also creates a dreamlike atmosphere that accentuates the metaphysical crisis the protagonist is experiencing. The plot follows the ascension of "the man" up a deep ravine where he plans to commit suicide, but ultimately is saved when he falls in love with Ascen (short for Ascension), an old, religious, indigenous woman with whom he has sexual intercourse. The relation between these two characters has an clear allegorical component that goes beyond its pure physicality and thus exposes the ultimate aim of an encounter, the true purpose of any human connectability. In this respect, although Japón focuses on the inner problems of a single individual, the protagonist's relation both with the old woman and with the rustic surroundings "reveals the potential that cinema has to be truly cosmopolitan, to the extent that it gives us structures for developing empathy towards the foreign and the unfamiliar, and for understanding more deeply the divide between self and other.".[2]

In Reygadas' next film Battle in Heaven (2005), the director once again presents an ontological exploration into the inner life of his main characters. This time the film follows Marcos, a working class man, who falls into an existential crisis after his wife tells him that the child they kidnapped, has died. The protagonist is remorseful for this event but does not truly repent (in a theological sense) until he later kills Ana, his boss's free-spirit daughter, with whom he has had intercourse. Following this death, Marcos begind a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe ... very nature of Marcos and Ana's stigmas within Mexican society Stigma and its associated discrimination produce social inequality. Furthermore, his sexual relation with his boss daughter ....repentance social exclusion subaltern

Similarly, in his following movie, Silent Light (2007), he shatters the very notion that art in “developing nations" should be read as a social, historical or cultural reference to their country of origin. This film, set in a historic Mennonite community in Chihuahua, Mexico, competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, and came away as winner of the Jury Prize.[2] Likewise, at the 2008 "Ariels"—the Mexican Motion Picture Academy awards—the film was nominated for nine awards, including all the major categories. American director Martin Scorsese described the, as "a surprising picture, and a very moving one as well."[3]

Reygadas received the award for Best Director at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival for his latest film Post Tenebras Lux.


In 1987 Reygadas became fascinated by films at age 16 watching the films of the Soviet/Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky (1932–1986). He went to Britain to study, attending Mount St Mary's College, Derbyshire, and returned to Mexico in order to study law. Afterward, he specialized in armed conflicts in London and worked for the United Nations.

In 1997, Reygadas entered a film competition in Belgium with his first short film, Maxhumain. Shortly after that, in 1999, he began writing his first long film, Japón, which he did not begin to shoot until 2001. The film was presented at the Rotterdam Film Festival and received a special mention for the Caméra d'Or award at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, as well as the Coral Award of the Havana Film Festival.

In 2004, he produced with his long-time partner, Jaime Romandía, the film Sangre directed by the young filmmaker Amat Escalante. Presented at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, it won in the Un Certain Regard section and was also presented in other festivals, such as the Toulouse Film Festival, the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the San Sebastian International Film Festival, and the Austin Film Festival.

In 2005 Reygadas filmed Batalla en el Cielo (Battle in Heaven), assisted by Amat Escalante. The film gained worldwide notoriety for its graphic depiction of sexual encounters. It competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.[4]

In 2007 Reygadas filmed Silent Light, which went on to win the Jury Prize at Cannes. It is very highly regarded by American filmmaker Martin Scorsese, who considers it a masterpiece of modern cinema.[citation needed]

Working with the Spanish director and producer Jaime Rosales (Fresdeval Films), in 2009 Reygadas co-produced and co-edited the film El árbol (The Tree). This Spanish-Mexican co-production was directed by Carlos Serrano Azcona; it starred Bosco Sodi, a contemporary artist, as the main character. It was presented at the 2009 Rotterdam Film Festival.

In early 2010, Reygadas announced plans at the Berlin Film Festival for his next feature film, titled Post Tenebras Lux. A semi-autobiographical fiction film, he said it is about "feelings, memories, dreams, things I've hoped for, fears, facts of my current life."[citation needed] Reygadas also said of the film, "reason will intervene as little as possible, like an expressionist painting where you try to express what you're feeling through the painting rather than depict what something looks like."[citation needed] It was shot in Mexico, Britain, Spain, and Belgium, all places where Reygadas has lived. At the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, Reygadas won the Best Director Award for the film.[5]

Animal cruelty in Japón[edit]

Japón contains a number of scenes of filmed animal cruelty; the British Board of Film Classification demanded cuts for its UK release in accordance with the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act 1937. The excised scenes are described as showing an effort to kill a bird by wringing its neck; it stumbles around, injured. A dog is forced to "sing" along with a song by being given a painful stimulus.[6] The film also includes a directly filmed scene of a bird being shot down and killed by having its head torn off; it has audio content of the (off-camera) slaughter of a pig.[7]

Reygadas defended these scenes, as well as the explicit sexual scenes in Batalla en el Cielo, saying,

"If you think about it, what’s so outrageous about a naked obese woman? There are plenty of astonishing images in other films with flying cars and such… What you find in my films you see any ordinary day: a gas station, a hunter killing an animal, people making love. I’m not trying to impress anyone with those images; they make sense in the context of my films."[8]


Year Original title English title Production country Language Length Award nominations
1999 Maxhumain MaxHumain Belgium Silent 10 min
2002 Japón Japón Mexico Spanish 130 min Directors Fortnight – "Special Mention" Camara d'Òr Award
2005 Batalla en el Cielo Battle in Heaven Mexico, France, Germany Spanish 105 min Cannes Film Festival "In Competition"
2007 Luz Silenciosa (aka Stellet Licht) Silent Light Mexico, France, Germany, Netherlands Plautdietsch 110 min Cannes Film Festival "In Competition" Jury Prize Award
2010 Este es mi Reino This is my Kingdom Mexico Spanish 10 min Berlin Film Festival
2012 Post Tenebras Lux Post Tenebras Lux Mexico, France, Germany, Netherlands Spanish 110 min Cannes Film Festival "In Competition" Best Director Award.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Cosmopolitan Aesthetics in the Films of Carlos Reygadas". Retrieved 2015-11-17.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  3. ^ "Silent Light", Film Forum website
  4. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Battle in Heaven". Retrieved 2009-12-05. 
  5. ^ "Awards 2012". Cannes. Retrieved 2012-05-27. 
  6. ^ Japon - Alejandro Ferretis, Magdalena Flores, Yolanda Villa
  7. ^ Austin360 Movies: Japon Reviews - Los Angeles Times
  8. ^ Castillo, José 'Carlos Reygadas', BOMB Magazine, Spring 2010, retrieved December 20, 2012

External links[edit]