A God´s Shadow
Rarely does a film succeed in leaving its viewers so satisfied and yet puzzled. La sombra de un dios by Bernhard Hetzenauer belongs to this category of work. The director uses calm black and white shots to develop the impression of what seems to be a horrifying story. In a quiet voice, a member of the Wirraritari/Huichol tribe of Mexico by the name of Chon calmly tells a story about taking peyote with his cousin Faustino who suddenly is convinced he is a god. An audio space gleaned from local atmospheres and the hypnotizing voice of the narrator overlays the director´s finely composed visual montage constellated by hilly landscapes rendered in shades of gray that intercut with the mute face of the narrator. But what the latter reports stands in stark contrast to the quiet visual language of the film. The god Faustino, as he is also consistently referred to by Chon, takes control of a group of 40 people after his divine awakening, and subsequently induces a bloodbath amongst them. The narrator, whose closest relatives fall prey to this terror, succeeds in fleeing to the neighboring village. There the local police jump into action and ultimately kill the god.
"You leap beyond time on peyote," as Antonin Artaud wrote in 1936, upon journeying to the Tarahumaras in Mexico. The director conveys this breakthrough to something beyond the laws of the space-time continuum through the use of a discrepancy between a narration that does not explain the incidents, and the coherent composition of image and sound. The film´s rupture between the beauty of the images and the horror of the events narrated touches on a sense of the sublime. In regard to the sublime, Longinus says, "when it breaks out of the right place, all the material is divided like a sudden convulsive bolt of lightning." (Boris Manner)
Translation: Eve Heller
Chon, a member of the Native Mexican Wirrárika community, tells the story of his cousin Faustino, son of the shaman of an indigenous settlement in the mountains of Nayarit called La Mora. In the 1980s Faustino had proclaimed himself to be god and the community´s spiritual leader, which then had been accepted by his father and the inhabitants. Together with an armed group he menaced and terrorized other neighboring villages. When Chon witnessed his cousin kill various members of their own community, he escaped La Mora and reported the incidents to the police of the larger village nearby, Santa María del Oro. (production note)
La sombra de un dios
Mexico, Austria, Germany