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Battle In Heaven
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Battle In Heaven
Battle In Heaven, Carlos Reygadas follow-up to Japón, opens with a controversial oral sex scene involving beauty, Ana (Anapola Mushkadiz), and the beast, Marcos (Marcos Hernández). Marcos is Anas chauffeur, who has kidnapped and accidentally killed a baby. Ana, a generals daughter by day and a prostitute by night, confides in Marcos and performs sexual favors for him in order to persuade him to turn himself in. She is too young, however, to understand Marcoss confused mental state, and her sensitive position with him puts her in peril. Set in Mexico City, this tragic drama is as much about failed intimacy as it is about Mexican class structure, as Ana and Marcos attempt to bridge the class gap. A few explicit sex scenes show Marcos in bed with Ana or his wife (Bertha Ruiz), thus garnering it reviews that compare it to The Brown Bunny. In fact, the slow pacing and artsy, self-consciously composed shots do remind one of The Brown Bunny, in that both films are initially interesting but grow dull as their plots take forever to unfold. An intriguing plot is buried under seemingly eternal panoramic shots of the city, painfully slow conversation between characters, and constant close-ups of Marcos face that are meant to capture his angst but only deter narrative. Nevertheless, this films merit is based in its experimental energy, and any director who follows up a graphic sex scene with a cut to the waving of the countrys flag (in this case Mexicos) has my respect. --Trinie Dalton
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i belong to the latter group.
first of all, the cinematography as the main character moves through the city of mexico is breathtaking and you feel yourself hanging left and right in your chair as sharp turns are taken.
the sex scenes are graphic, but not gratuitous; it's the way most of us have sex, not under the covers with our bras and underpants on.
most importantly, this movie is inhabited by real people, fat people, old people, crippled people and people who are generally not regarded as photogenic.
and the fat people are having sex. is that so hard to believe?
it's great to see that sex is finally portrayed as something not exclusively restricted to the ashton kutchers and demi moores of this world.
woven into all of this is an all too human story of love, betrayal and rejection
In this story we have Marco (Marcos Hernandez) who has been a chauffeur for a General of the Army for fifteen years. His unnamed wife (Bertha Ruiz) hawks alarm clocks and pastry in a metro station. Both are middle-aged, unattractive, and overweight, the antithesis of Hollywood glamor. The film is framed by sexual acts, and explicitly realistic Dumont-like sex is sprinkled throughout, apparently designed to tweak our level of comfort rather than turn us on. As part of his job, Marcos chauffeurs the elite General's rebellious young daughter Ana (Anapola Mushkadiz) around town and he is the only one who knows about her secret life, turning tricks in a brothel. To clear the air and perhaps to receive some of her favors, Marcos admits to her that he and his wife kidnapped the baby of a friend and that the baby died accidentally.
Transcending racial taboos and class differences, Ana agrees to have sex with her driver but tells him to turn himself in to the police. Persuaded by his wife, however, he decides to wait until after the procession of Catholics to the shrine of the Lady of Guadeloupe.
Reygadas challenges our visual ideals about screen sex by zooming in on Marcos's flabby physique and his wife's pimpled, varicose veined flesh.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Carlos Reygadas (the director) has a very unique style, which you cannot help but appreciate. Some of the shots in the film are just amazing! Also, I really thought the lead actress, for someone who had never acted before, did a wonderful job! I still cannot decide on the lead male (who had also never acted professionally before) but honestly his performance did not hurt the film any.
What it's about: Basically a chauffeur and his wife kidnap a baby that dies in their care. The chafer confesses his secret to Ana, the daughter of a rich general, who works as a prostitute on the side, and who he drives to her "job." Carlos tries to find redemption through Ana, and ultimately falls in love with her.
It is a very intense film, but absolutely worth seeing, despite the graphic scenes and controversy.
For me, the sex scenes themselves are not the problem. It is the movie as a whole that I object to. For "Battle in Heaven" is a pretentious, arty contrivance that seems to be operating under the assumption - quite rightly perhaps, since the movie ended up on quite a large number of ten best lists last year - that it can earn points with the critical intelligentsia if it can just manage to bore its audience into a state of complete catatonia.
It tells the desultory and languid tale of an overweight, middle-aged chauffeur who wanders in a zombie-like daze around Mexico City wracked with guilt over the fact that he and his wife recently kidnapped a child who ended up dying under their care. During the course of the film, Marcos (Marcos Hernandez) is able to shake himself out of his stupor long enough to have sex with his wife, sex with his boss' daughter and sex with himself while watching a soccer game. The movie is all about the struggle that is being perpetually waged within the Mexican soul between sex and temptation on the one hand and piety, guilt and the obsessive need for redemption on the other. And while this theme is certainly a valid one and is actually developed to some extent in the closing scenes of the drama, the movie itself is far too inert, far too easily sidetracked, and far too underdeveloped to capture our interest.
For me, the title of this film, alone, is a great paradox that is left to us audience members to ponder. Is this reference intended to be biblical or cautionary? Just what is it that the characters are battling in heaven? Is it a crisis of consciousness? Are they questioning their own morality (or lack thereof) in the face of relentless alienation? Particularly, for me, the character of the (at times) catatonic Marco is at once pathetic, as he blankly gazes into the distance, as well as poignant. You can hardly call him the "hero" of this story. He is more like the hapless anti-hero. It wasn't so much that I hated him, but, throughout the course of the movie, it was a rare occasion that I felt any connection with him at all, much less the acts that he commits. They are presented as incidental episodes (be they sexual or violent acts). It was very hard for me to form any connection with him or with Ana, nor with any of the other characters in the film.
BATTLE IN HEAVEN has been criticized and earned censorship as well as praise. This is due to the graphic nature of the sex scenes, as well as what has been perceived as an exploitative look at Mexico City and the nature of its people. We see scenes of soccer matches juxtaposed with soldiers doing their militaristic marches, as well as people engaging in detached sexual activity (maybe the better word for this is soul-less).
This is not a film I can easily recommend as a good introduction to Mexican cinema because it unfortunately left me cold and without a sense of any really deep emotion at all nor any deeper insight into the culture that is depicted in it.
In many ways the film is perplexing. It shows us a riveting and intense slice of life, but that slice is presented with minimal context. We know a kidnapping has occurred and the victim has died, but other than that, no details are forthcoming. We're also never told how the (highly unlikely) relationship between the rich girl and her chauffeur began, but it's obvious that it's complicated, emotional, and passionate. Thematically, this is a film about keeping secrets, and what those secrets can do to us. It also has something to say about sin, redemption, and social distinctions.
This isn't a film for the squeamish, or for those who want the story spelled out for them. But, if you can get past that, it's a film that will draw you in, keep you watching, and keep you thinking long after it's over.
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