Visually arresting but dramatically inert, “Battle in Heaven” is the very definition of a difficult film. The question is whether such difficulty is ultimately rewarding.
Marcos (Marcos Hernandez) works as a driver for a general. He and his wife have kidnapped a baby for ransom money, but the baby dies (offscreen, for the record). Marcos picks up Ana, his boss’ daughter, at the airport. Ana works in a brothel for fun, and Marcos and his wife argue about how to best avoid trouble in the wake of the baby’s death. Much amazing cinematography and empty transgression ensues.
There isn’t a moment in the film that isn’t visually remarkable. And I mean, really remarkable; from the unfurling of a huge Mexican flag to the buzz of activity at a religious pilgrimage, Carlos Reygadas’ direction is sure-handed and evocative.
However, “evocative” is not the first adjective that springs to mind to describe the characters. It’s hard to work up much enthusiasm for these people, with their somber moods, blank expressions, and inexplicable actions. Marcos is such an enigma, and his crime so abstract, that any attempts to depict inner tumult and/or cold calculation are unsuccessful.
“Battle in Heaven” currently stands at 25 percent on the Tomatometer.