Film review: Nuestro Tiempo (Director: Carlos Reygadas)
By Sascha Krieger
A muddy lake. The camera moves across until it encounters a group of girls on a raft. Lying, chatting, lazily. Then they’re attacked by a group of boys, thrown off, playfully. The camera moves on. On the shore, it finds a group of teenagers, engaged in the gossip and banter and awkwardness of blossoming sexuality. The camera-eye’s journey continues. It finds farmers, farm workers, engaged in work, post-work encounters, the small talk of tender, playful, awkward, cautious sexual politics, the innocence of the children, the curiosity of the adolescents lost. Nuestro Tiempo, meaning „Our Time“, doesn’t just take its time, it creates its own. It’s non-linear, circular, a cirvle of attraction, holding back, resentment, blossoming in the young, poisoning the older. A time that doesn’t get off the ground, that gets stuck, in the desired and the unsaid, the reckless and the considerate, both equally inadequate to what is not and will never be rational. As the bright hope of summer, tinged with a hint of paleness, makes way to the confusion of an almost constant, often misty, somewhat opaque twilight, the film sets out, slowly, in suspended time, to explore the murky, unbridgeable gap that lies between humans, even and particularly those that claim to be „together“.
The film focuses on Juan and Ester, farmers, he a famous poet, she running the business side of thigs. They’re in an open relationship which crumbles when she starts concealing details about a fling with an American friend of theirs. Juan’s jealousy reveals his possessiveness, the open relationship is shown to be a tool for him to hold her, resulting from their relationship’s origins in an affair. Director Carlos Reygadas and his wife Natalia Lopez play the couple, their real life children portray those in the film. This heightens the sense of fraught intimacy, uneasy authenticity, clashing with a visual framework that is almost like a painting, a darkly impressionistic panorama with a baroque flourish, universal, abstract, artificial and naturalistic at the same time. It draws the viewer in and keeps them at bay, as the characters move in and out of control, as time does.
Repeatedly, the camera is off centre, focusing on the lister, not on whoever is speaking, on objects rather than on humans, remains for minutes on inertia. In one pivotal scene, when Ester is driving and trying out the cloak of independence, we suddenly see the engine at work and later view the dirt road glimpsed from underneath the car. The human makes way for the inanimate, the breathing organism for mechanics, rationality for pure functionality. It is shifts like this, unexplained, rich in often contradictory association, unexplained and unexplainable that help create the sense of an entirely autonomous reality in which the protagonists are captured, that of the age-old question if and how the solitary human can find and sustain companionship. Time and again, the unsaid explodes, the characters – and their actors – as helpless, confused, questioning as the camera-eye, the direction, the imagery. As the silence grows, voice-overs take control over the soundtrack, that increasingly fades mid-conversation, they read letters, a child’s voice explains the adults‘ feelings. The focus shifts from scenes to reflection, suddenly music appears, as the confusion grows. In the end, nothing is solved and everything is. It lies plainly on the table. And still, time and humans cannot move on.
Nuestro Tiempo is a three-hour long meditation on the human dilemma, the struggle between possessiveness and love, solitude and togetherness, desire and reason. And it reflects on what happens when patriarchal concepts and toxic masculinity interfere with the ragile web of human relationships. The film is as much e poem about unversal truths as it it is a rather poignant critique of a male-dominated society that casts love and devotion and empathy in a cage. It gets dark, but not quite. The twilight remains, time stands still, humans are suspended in limbo, out of time, between spaces. A masterpiece.