Reel Affirmations 2006
El Cielo Dividido
Review by Will O’Bryan
Rating: (3 out of 5)
Tuesday, 10/17/2006, 9:00 PM
Feature presentation, $9 at Lincoln Theatre
Spanish with English subtitles
SOME PEOPLE SHY away from subtitled movies — oh, the drudgery of reading one’s way through a film! With Broken Sky, such people have very little to worry about. The amount of dialogue in this Mexican love story couldn’t fill a Chihuahua’s dog dish. Granted, the same crowd that avoids subtitles will probably not be too thrilled about sitting through two hours and 20 minutes of visual poetry accompanied by background noise. Nor would plenty of people who have no problem whatsoever with subtitles.
Julián Hernández, director and writer of Broken Sky (El Cielo dividido), asks his audience to meet him far more than halfway. Attempting a viewing is something to be done on faith. As with faith, you’ll come out of the experience feeling either enlightened or duped.
The story centers on the passionate affair between two young lovers, presumably university students. Audiences will have to presume quite a bit, again going back to that lack of dialogue. Hernández uses scant narration to help the audience along, on occasion. For the most part, however, he tells a story of the heights and depths of romantic emotions via facial expressions, body language, cinematography and some beautiful music. A redemptive scene set in a sex club is particularly beautiful, both visually and emotionally.
As a 20-minute short — especially if half that time was reserved for one of his glorious sex scenes — Hernández’s film might be the toast of the festival. As it is, an experiment running two hours longer than that hypothetical short (and yes, this bears repeating), there will be precious few who will count Broken Sky among their film favorites. But for those few who take to the film, it will be cherished.
Hernández has created a type of cinematic poetry that defies convention, preferring a more nuanced delivery. His characters will not tell you about their pain or ecstasy, but they will show you. To convey emotion as precisely as Hernández apparently wants can take time. It’s not enough to know that Gerardo is feeling rejected — Hernández demands you feel it. Some will. Some won’t. Those few who do will be rewarded with a movie-going experience they will likely take with them for the rest of their lives. Hernández has traded accessibility for a stairway to heaven. Not everyone can — or wants — to attempt the climb. — WOB