New Order (2020)
Director: Michel Franco
Writer: Michel Franco
Starring: Naian González Norvind, Diego Boneta, Mónica Del Carmen, Darío Yazbek
New Order opens with a blurry montage of disturbing images; people in various stages of distress, outbursts of violence and piles of dead bodies littering city streets. It’s a vicious assault on the senses and its rapid-fire delivery leaves the audience clueless as to what’s going on. Was this some kind of massacre, a terrorist attack or an outbreak of zombies? While we later learn that there’s nothing supernatural about New Order, these opening moments of confusion and distress make the imagination run wild.
Director Michel Franco (who also writes, produces and edits) has created a remarkable film, though it is one that many may struggle to get through. From the very beginning, it is clear that New Order will not go easy on anyone. The story begins with a lavish Mexican wedding reception at the manor home of an affluent family. Marian (Naian González Norvind) and Alan (Darío Yazbek) are the happy couple, showered in gifts and compliments from their guests. The scene moves at a frenetic pace with characters introduced and relationships established at break-neck speed. Rather than the nauseating chaos of Uncut Gems, Franco’s edits are made to communicate simple pieces of information. It is really excellently done and it’s almost startling how much knowledge is accumulated in a very short space of time. It is clear that this is a wedding of the ultra-rich and the ultra-powerful, with little regard for those beneath them. Yet, just as quickly as this image is established, Franco begins to tear it down.
The film’s fast pace almost never allows for breathing room, which creates and maintains a rising state of panic. Despite the images of happy party goers, there is a sense that something is about to break in from off-screen. When it finally does, it doesn’t come with a moment of relief but rather shifts gears into a higher state of terror. Following reports of city-wide protests, strangers begin to sneak into the party, drawing weapons and then immediately opening fire. Finally New Order begins to reveal itself and it’s a terrifying sight to behold. There is a massacre at the party that turns into a riot which in turn develops into full-blown urban warfare.
As well orchestrated as the chaos is, New Order cannot be called an enjoyable experience. There are some sequences that are truly upsetting and disturbing. The film is unflinching in its depictions of torture and mass executions. In fact, it’s so unrelenting at points that it comes dangerously close to losing its shock value and therefore cheapening its overall experience. The camera always remains focused on victims, the perpetrators of the violence just out of shot. With nothing but images of torture and death in front of them, and the constant threat of attack surrounding them, the film may end up simply overwhelming some that attempt to persist with its 88 minute runtime.
For those who can push through, the film reaches moments that evoke the dizzying heights of the inimitable Monos. It has no interest in explaining what is going on, relying instead on experiential storytelling to explain its narrative. Indeed, as the film progresses, it seeks only to add to the confusion, providing just one cryptic clue. Every piece of text in the film, including the credits, is shown as a reflection, with letters and words flipped backwards. It’s clear that the film is not trying to depict reality but instead create a mirror. As maddening and chaotic as New Order is, its most effective blow comes from the fact that what it’s depicting is only one step-removed from the ordinary and recognisable.
A daunting but very well crafted art-house thriller, New Order is a very impressive piece of work from Franco, especially in its ability to maintain such a high velocity pace. At times it can go too far and its unflinching approach to its own brutality threatens to divide those destined to watch it, yet as an exaggerated look at national corruption, violence and inequality, New Order delivers a singular vision from a singular creative worthy of further exploration.
Written by Jack Cameron
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