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TIFF 2020 Review: New Order

Image Courtesy of TIFF

Unapologetically violent, blatantly graphic and unrelentingly bleak, New Order is not for the faint of heart.  Directed by Michel Franco, the film, which took home the Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize from the Venice Film Festival, takes aim at class divide, government control and civil uprising.  But beware, there are no heroes here.

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New Order opens with short film clips, a preview of what is to come, an overture of sorts.  It may tell you what to expect, but it certainly doesn’t prepare you fully.  Marianne (Naian Gonzaléz Norvind) is about to get married.  She’s joyful with her well-dressed guests, clearly in love with her soon-to-be husband, if only the judge could get there.  But outside the walls of the posh mansion where the ceremony is to be held, chaos runs rampant.  An uprising is taking place and there are signs that it is about to breach the gates.  The water from the faucets turns green, a guest shows up covered in green paint, cars outside vandalized, again with green paint – the calling sign of the rioters.

When a former employee of the family shows up at the wedding needing money and assistance for his ailing wife, Marianne and current house worker Cristian (Fernando Cuautle) decide to drive to help her.  However the riots catch up with them. As the military takes siege of the city the corrupt officers collect anyone of the upper class they can find to hold for ransom. Marianne is held captive, leaving her family, Cristian, and his mother (Mónica del Carmen) to get her back.

The first half of New order is absolutely riveting viewing.  It is unexpected, unpredictable and fast paced. It completely engrosses you. Franco introduces the violence quickly, yet it seems to serve a purpose in the first half, setting up a clear line between the haves and the have nots.  It’s the second half that becomes more divisive as the violence escalates to unrelenting. No one is off-limits, not one character is safe. There’s no time to breathe, no time for empathy, only time to wince as things get darker and more hopeless. The acts of violence become brutal and sadistic. It’s shocking and uncomfortable, which is certainly the point, but it is unrestrained. It certainly will not be for everyone.

As the military moves in to create order, Franco sets up a dystopian environment, but in the current political and economic climate it’s one that hits a little close to home. The corrupt government control is one more element to create that feeling of despondency. There are no winners in this new reality, everyone in New Order is the loser, and Michel Franco’s blatant warning seems to suggest we all may be if we aren’t careful. 

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