Film Review by Kam Williams
Headline: Mennonite Faces Crisis of Faith in Visually-Arresting Morality Play
Johan (Cornelio Wall) is a devoutly-religious family man who lives close to the land with his wife, Esther (Miriam Toews), and their big brood of about a half-dozen children in a sparsely-populated desert region of Northern Mexico. After a visually-enchanting, Koyaanisqatsi-like, opening featuring time-lapse photography of dawn gradually breaking over the horizon, we’re introduced to our guilt-ridden hero who is already embroiled in a messy love triangle.
For, though he still professes to care for Esther, Johan has nevertheless thrown himself headlong into a steamy affair with Marianne (Maria Pankratz), an available neighbor in their tight-knit Mennonite sect. However, the anguished philanderer is obviously experiencing a crisis of faith over his thorny predicament. And he finds himself torn and asking whether God really wants him to stay in a marriage that has lost its zest just for the sake of the children, or would The Almighty rather he find fulfillment with a mistress who might be the love of his life?
Unfolding at a pace slower than drying paint, Silent Light invites you to contemplate the pained protagonist’s predicament while soaking in the modest skyline of his low-tech Mennonite community. Dragging his ass back and forth across the town like a dog with worms, the ostensibly-depressed Johan seeks spiritual help from both his father (Peter Wall) and his best friend (Jacobo Klassen), but their conflicting advice proves to be of little consequence.
Will the tormented sinner really leave his spouse for another woman who seems just as stuck in the 19th Century? Somehow, given all the time to reflect, you can’t help but suspect that Johan wouldn’t be so hesitant if a pal introduced him to the trappings of modern civilization waiting across the border in Texas. Neither his wife nor that equally-homely mistress would stand a chance against a potential upgrade once he got a load of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders.
Dogma day afternoons in the desert!
Excellent (4 stars)
In German, Spanish, French and English with subtitles.
Running time: 136 minutes
Studio: Tartan Films
To see a trailer for Silent Light, visit:
Sunday, January 18, 2009