By Jonathan Marlow
February 15, 2006 - 1:13 PM PST
Please note! If you have not seen Battle in Heaven, please be aware that there are SPOILERS in the answers Carlos Reygadas gives to the remaining questions.
However, in the last scene that Marcos and Ana are together, not the final scene in the movie, is his action based on something he believes he needs to do for himself or something he's doing for Ana? Is he trying to free Ana from her situation or is he trying to do what he believes his wife would want him to do?
What you're asking is the most important issue in the whole film because it relates to the whole method of the film. Let me try to explain. If that happens in the film, as it could happen in real life, there can be many explanations for it. Some can be stupid and some can be plausible. Even among the plausible ones, there can be oppositions. The way that you see it is only a reflection of your own personality. Some see it from a very criminalistic point of view, so they say, "Well, he killed her because he was scared and he didn't want to go to jail." He realized at a certain point that he wanted to escape but he knew that the only witness, the only one who knows [about the kidnapping], is Ana, apart from his wife who he could trust. So he needs to kill not to leave any evidence and then run away.
But Jamie, who had left and was coming back, knew that he was there...
Exactly. But you could still say, "Well, that's why he did it, but Marcos is very stupid and he doesn't think that, of course, he will tell the police." Whatever. Some people have told me that and I have even heard people discuss it, and then other people in a completely different extent, almost a mythical level think, "Oh no, Marcos knows that in this world he will never have Ana. He cannot possess her. Their difference is too big - physical, social, economical, racial, everything. He knows only in another pure kind of energy they can exist together so he has to kill her." That is another extreme, but there are many things in-between. Some people think of this as a betrayal because he thought that Ana loved him, and Ana says, "Yeah, I'll keep you in my heart," but then, when he goes out, he realizes that cannot be true. This is why he looks at the ice skates and he knows that it's someone else that she really cares for, and he feels betrayed.
All of these explanations, in my opinion, are logical and they can be valid, but none of them is right or wrong. Let's say any of those guys that kill, as it happens very often here [in the United States], that someone kills his whole family and children then blows his head off. Then, in the newspapers, you will read the explanation. But if you start speaking to the family, to the neighbors, you will see everyone has a different approach and someone will say something that didn't appear in the newspaper and even people in the family can have a discussion about why it happened. It will all depend. Maybe he was frustrated. There can be thousands and thousands of explanations.
Although he has resisted every time that his wife suggested it, he immediately joins the pilgrimage. Is Marcos finally seeking something that is spiritual?
Sure. But you don't know if he is seeking or if that spiritual thing has found him.
I'm trying to characterize this in a way that doesn't ruin the final moments of the film. He either reaches the moment after he leaves the apartment building or he reaches it in the hallway before the murder. I would argue that everything is fatalistically decided in the hallway.
I'm really happy that you think that way because probably what I think is less interesting. Honestly, I really feel that the film is larger than us. Even though I made it, I prefer your opinion. I seriously do and I'm not being polite. I have always thought that only after he killed her that he completely ruined everything and that he loses his mind. So therefore...
Although you hear the police describe it, by never showing that moment when Marcos loses his mind, you allow the audience to make that leap.
The ritualistic aspects of his job, such as the raising and lowering of the Mexican flag, are part of his everyday life. With the symbols that surround him, he's obviously a religious person. And that's the conflict - his actions versus his beliefs.
Absolutely. He is surrounded by religion and he's surrounded by institution. I really wanted to create the strongest possible tension between his actions and his internal conflict. That's why all the turmoil is inside him, unapparent, because I really wanted that tension to be completely separate. I wanted him to be someone that wouldn't want all these external elements of ritual, like going to ask for forgiveness, to be a part of his true internal conflict. In the end, when he loses his mind, he resorts to the external book of rules. He uses these rules in a different way because he does it for real and the others don't. It's at that time that he takes the references from the outside and he follows the outside instead of the inside.
I would say that most humans, instead of being ourselves, follow external rules and that's what happened to Marcos. Marcos wanted to follow his internal rules but, in the breaking moment, he couldn't follow his internal rules until the end. He had to have access to the external rules. Somehow, external rules are necessary, otherwise we would be desperate. Not everyone needs them but most people require them.
Would you say that the story in Battle in Heaven is a story of Mexico City? Would it be an entirely different film, or would the characters behave differently, in another city?
I don't think so. I think it could be anywhere. Even in Mormon Utah.
Then it's a story about humanity.
Absolutely. I would have changed the kind of crime if it would have happened in Utah and, in the end, he would have gone to a Mormon church. Think of Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky. It is a very similar kind of conflict. It's just a guy that killed these two ladies and he just wants to find his way out. It's Russia in the 19th century [but it could be any time, any place].
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"If you miscast, the film is lost."
"You're just creating a perfect unity. Perfect for you."
"Honestly, I really feel that the film is larger than us."
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In addition to his persistence in acquiring obscure films for GreenCine, Marlow is a writer, filmmaker, curator and occasional critic. Not necessarily in that order. He is also a dedicated skeptic.
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