003797Reviews & Counting
Battle In Heaven
DVD disk
05.18.2006 By: Jason Coleman
Battle In Heaven order
Carlos Reygadas

Marcos Hernandez
Anapola Mushkadiz
Bertha Ruiz


star Printer-Friendly version
With an extremely hard to follow storyline, (the DVD description makes it seem so simple!), Iíll try and break it down as best I can. A husband and wife kidnap a baby for ransom, but when the baby dies, it leaves them in a bit of a quandary. Wracked with guilt, the man tells a whore, that he drives around and has sex with, only to end up fearing that it may have been a mistake. Ah, complications, complications.
Art in any form is highly subjective, one person may claim something to be a masterpiece, while another thinks it to be junk - beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The same could be said about films with a heavy artistic feel, that images are created to give a look and feel that will entice the senses of the audience. Unfortunately, the critical darling BATTLE IN HEAVEN (BATALLA EN EL CIELO) is more then a hair shy of being one of these films Ė in fact, itís a complete poser. The DVD box warns the film ďcontains graphic sexĒ and is for ďmature audiences onlyĒ. What is should have said was the film ďcontains no redeeming qualities whatsoeverĒ and is for ďpeople who want to torture themselves for an hour and a halfĒ. The film starts off with a woman giving a guy head, thatís right, oral sex. Now she does shed a few tears afterward and the scene is probably meant to be a metaphor for loneliness and desperation, but in the end folks, itís just a girl giving a hummer. Not that I have a problem with it (I love graphic sex scenes as much as the next guy!); BATTLE IN HEAVEN contains a lot of very explicit sex acts, thatís not why itís a failure. Its major flaw is that it has the pacing of an old car with no tires and no rims and ultimately made me want to get out and push. I think my fellow critics have mistaken bad porn and shitty filmmaking for being bold and moving, of which this film is neither. Even the story is impossibly hard to find in this one, between the long drawn out scenes of nothingness and metaphoric doggy style sex shots, I found myself completely lost - and that was the most positive thing about the film! (And as far as some of the sexual trysts being between fat people, I have no problem with it, as itís been done with beauty and grace in films like THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER - but let me tell you, Reygadas is no Peter Greenaway!)

The performances here are completely lifeless, which I suspect was on purpose since lead Hernandez only cracked a smiled at the end, but it doesnít help a film that is already working at a snailís pace. Itís not about casting non-named actors, which I am always for, itís about casting people that are literally dead inside. Though they do match the overall dead style of the film, so I give credit to Director Reygadas for that, at least he remained boldly boring every step of the way. If I seem harsh to this little art film, itís not out of anything but sheer desire to tell the awful truth about a film that seems to have the pretense of being utterly complex and deep, but is just mindless, slow, boring, sex for the sake of being shocking and different, unbelievably horrible piece of filmmaking I as a critic have ever witnessed. (Wow that was a mouthful, no pun intended!) Look, not every movie is brilliant, some of the flicks out there are nothing more then total drivel. Like the old person in front of you on the street that has a walker and wonít let you pass, BATTLE IN HEAVEN is nothing more then an exercise in sheer patience and tolerance, two things that are usually considered virtues, but here will feel like nothing more then a slow and tortuous curse.
Interview with Director Carlos Reygadas and Actress Anapola Mushkadiz (33:27): In lieu of a commentary track, this interview involves Director Reygadas and Actress Mushkadiz talking about shooting the film. Interesting to hear Reygadas give reasons behind his choices (although I donít buy any of them!), but he is never really asked the hard questions by the unknown interviewee. Actress Mushkadiz has very little to add, other then everyone is nice and wonderful to work with, but does wear a low cut, revealing top that may excite fans - unfortunately, I am not one.

Selected Scenes from the Directorís Award-Winning First Feature ďJAPONĒ (15:11): A set of 5 clips from Reygadasís first film JAPON, all of which look fine, but donít give much in terms of story. At the very least, this one finally had the common decency to put the subtitles in the black space - finally - you get one star for that!

There is also an Original Theatrical Trailer which wisely does not show any of the films more revealing scenes (you know what I mean!), plus Trailers for ANATOMY OF HELL, SUSPICIOUS RIVER and 9 SONGS.
Look, anyone can get genius out of anything they want; hell, one critic called this mess of a film a ďstunning revelatory experienceĒ. (Bro, were we watching the same film, or did you just sneak in some K-Y?) If you like your movies slow, boring, without any redeeming qualities whatsoever and chocked full of metaphoric sex and hummers galore, this one is a must for you. (Sort of sounds like THE BROWN BUNNY, which looked like GONE WITH THE WIND compared to this garbage!) Sorry to all the sensitive, but I call it like I see it and BATTLE IN HEAVEN is filmmaking of the worst kind, a bad movie disguised as an art film. In the end, with all interpretations aside, a blowjob is still a blowjob.
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