“All creation groans” in the unforgettable, long shots that open and close Carlos Reygadas’ remarkable film. It’s hard to believe this movie was released in 2008—it has a quality that will make it a major event for film students for many decades to come.
It’s set in a Mexican community of Old Order Mennonites, where Johan, an unfaithful husband, tries to rationalize his infidelity—with devastating consequences. Arguing that his attraction to an ice-cream-selling woman named Mariane was given to him by God, he brazenly offends his father and the religious order, breaking his wife's heart.
The movie’s a marriage of the religious exploration of Carl Dreyer’s Ordet and the metaphors of the natural world in Terrence Malick’s The New World. Some may find it overbearing in its stiff formality. But many are left breathless by the radiant cinematography and the film’s climactic affirmation of fidelity and faith. In Books and Culture, Roy Anker wrote: "Reygadas displays the whole of his tale within an effulgent, circumambient radiance whose quiet majesty seems to bestow meaningfulness of some kind on all that happens. Call it, if you wish, the loving eye of God, which goes everywhere, attending and transfiguring, even into dankest corners of woe and evil."