Thursday, September 3, 2009

Silent Light

(Stellet Licht)
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Mennonite Morality Play Makes Its Way to DVD

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 children in a sparsely-populated region of Northern Mexico. After a visually-enchanting, Koyaanisqatsi-like, opening featuring time-lapse photography of dawn gradually breaking over the horizon, we learn that the family’s guilt-ridden patriarch 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 and member of their tight-knit Mennonite sect. However, the anguished philanderer is obviously experiencing a crisis of faith over his thorny predicament. Thus, he is torn and wondering 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 desert skyline of his low-tech Mennonite community. Dragging his butt back and forth across town like a dog with worms, the ostensibly-depressed Johan seeks spiritual counsel from both his father (Peter Wall) and his best friend (Jacobo Klassen), but their conflicting advice proves to be of no help.
Will the tormented sinner 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 21st Century. That homely wife probably wouldn’t stand a chance against a thoroughly-modern upgrade waiting just north of the border in Texas.
Dogma day dawn, and afternoon!

Excellent (4 stars)
In German, Spanish, French and English with subtitles.
Running time: 136 minutes
Studio: Vivendi Entertainment
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, interview with star Cornelio Wall and “The Making of” featurette.

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