New Order, 2020.
Directed by Michel Franco.
Starring Naian Gonzalez Norvind, Diego Boneta, and Monica Del Carmen.
A wedding between two wealthy, high society individuals is interrupted by rioting and criminal activity.
Violence on screen is not a novel concept. Indeed, the violence we see in films often reflects that which exists in the real world, as is possibly true with Michel Franco’s latest feature, New Order. The film imagines a dystopian Mexico in which protests become riots, just as nuptial proceedings are taking place between two members of the wealthy elite. Choosing mainly to focus on the bride, Marianne, as the de facto protagonist, Franco’s film spins a tale of dread so bleak it could almost be some kind of horror film. But whereas horror almost always takes place in a cinematic world pleasantly removed from our own, New Order is far too recognisable for comfort.
From the very beginning, a sense of unease is in the air. Green paint is beginning to turn up where it shouldn’t, the judge marrying the couple is held up by the protests, and an ex-servant of the family has shown up asking for money. Between the marital discord already beginning to show its head, and the clear class gap between members of the wedding and those serving, there is enough here to inform an interesting social drama. But Franco’s film quickly veers into something much more severe. Apparent protesters begin to show up at the celebration, though it quickly becomes clear that their desires are more than just overturning the power of the rich. Away from the secluded mansion, Marianne escapes the first wave, though the worst is still to come.
Franco’s grip on the film never wavers for a second – there is no respite from the sickening expectation that things are about to turn even more sour than they are at the present moment. The fear in the performers eyes is entirely convincing, and the gunshots seem to pack more of a punch than we’re used to from generic action films. Like everything in Franco’s film, the sound punctures any feeling of safety, persistent gut punches that reveal that no one is safe, and no one can be trusted. It is not just imitating the Game of Thrones style gimmick – that your favourite character might die at any time – here, the characters are in danger simply because those with guns are utterly merciless. Franco makes excellent use of the tension, a director so in control of his material that each subsequent bullet feels just as painful as the last. The film is an impressive watch, but an unforgivably difficult one.
Just as Jennifer Kent’s 2019 release The Nightingale used its relentlessly bleak tale to open a conversation about colonialism, New Order aims to discuss the morality of a coup of this sort. But here, Franco’s methods are ultimately preventative of any such discourse. The director’s message is not one supporting some idea of a people’s revolution, because none of the actions seen here are glorified. The film propagates the idea that capitalist greed is not so much overthrown as replaced by more of the same, and that violent corruption exists in every corner of this imagined society. Thus New Order seems to exist just for the sake of sadism, the only takeaway being one of nihilism. In the end, Franco’s strong directorial guidance feel a little wasted on a film that shows nothing other than a supremely pessimistic view of humanity.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★