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Battle in Heaven

Director: Carlos Reygades

Mexico-France-Germany-Belgium| 2005. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 98 min.


This second feature from Mexican director Carlos Reygades is a tough film to get a handle on. As in his widely praised debut effort, Japon, meaning in Battle in Heaven is often maddeningly elusive, yet it is a forceful and original work. It revolves around Marcos (Marcos Hernandez), a fat, middle-aged, ill-shaven security guard, who also works as a chauffeur for the family of an army general. The latter job primarily involves being at the beck and call of the general’s daughter, Ana (Anapola Mushkadiz), a young woman he’s known since she was a child and who now amuses herself by working in a high-class brothel.
Marcos also has a wife (played by Bertha Ruiz), a woman of some heft who sells clocks and trinkets on the subway. We discover that Marcos and his wife are involved in a botched kidnapping: they’ve abducted the baby of a family friend, but the baby has died, an event that sends Marcos into a state of near catatonic numbness
This is a film driven by its moody and evocative imagery and there are scenes here of breathtaking beauty. It’s also a film very much driven by sex. If you’ve heard anything about Battle in Heaven, you’ve probably heard that it opens and closes with a graphic scene in which Ana performs oral sex on Marcos. The film follows through on this with another even more explicit moment between them, and Reygadas also includes a sweaty sex scene between Marcos and his wife. The latter is liable to have you watching between your fingers, but it’s actually quite moving and tender, one of the few instances on film in which an aesthetically challenged couple are shown as sexually active human beings.

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