Have you ever had a second chance to witness a miracle? You have now. In a very limited run at The Belcourt earlier this year, Nashville's most devout cinephiles communed in the spiritual realm by way of Mexican auteur Carlos Reygadas' widely praised but rarely screened third feature Silent Light. This Thursday, as the spectacular finale to this semester's impressive "International Lens" series at Vanderbilt University, rapture will strike twice.
Idyllically set among a community of Mexico's detached rural Mennonites, the film concerns an adulterous triangle between Johan (Cornelio Wall), a married and religiously devout preacher's son who falls in love with another woman, Marianne (Maria Pankratz). As a morally acute man, he openly shares this fact—and his spiritual agony—with his wife Esther (Miriam Toews); it is a burden which will become a matter of contemplation for a community too small for secrets.
Never in a rush to push through its sparse narrative, the film spends much of its 145 minutes ruminating on the sights and sounds of its pastoral surroundings—as if it were trying to expose the invisible link between Earth and the heavens. It does so most famously in its opening sequence: a six-minute static-shot sunrise which takes place almost in real time. Aesthetically, it's one of the strongest testaments in recent memory to the necessity of the theatrical experience for particular films.
Aside from the recognition of everyday moments of divine intimation, the film draws inspiration from Danish master Carl Dreyer's Ordet (1955) in the explicit act of divinity that composes the film's reality-transcending finale. The real miracle of Silent Light, however, resides in its mature handling of the brutal complexities of matters of the heart. Its frank, unflinching nature serves as an antidote for the movies' century of mistreatment and simplification of love. Conveniently for Nashville audiences, it is also the rational, rehabilitative antithesis to that other recently screened incursion of God, Nature and destructive longing, Lars von Trier's Antichrist. Only here, you'll never want to look away.