Writer and Director: Michel Franco
For couples attempting to get married this year, they will sympathise with the family at the centre of Michel Franco’s New Order (Nuevo Orden) trying to run a large wedding at home while a riot takes place in the surrounding streets. As cars and guests arrived splattered in green paint, Franco comments on the disproportionate effects of wealth, privilege and class as the subdued decide to rise-up.
With a house full of guests for her daughter’s wedding and a lavish party underway, Rebeca is approached by Rolando for 150,000 pesos to cover his wife Elisa’s heart surgery. Only able to generate 35,000 pesos, bride Marianne leaves to help but in her absence looters make their way inside the house causing a devastating carnage.
Franco’s management of the fast escalating chaos is one of New Order (Nuevo Orden)’s most exciting elements, and within the first 30-minutes. He draws a direct line between the sophistication of the busy Novelo family party with their chic home as people dance and toast the occasion, and the quickfire devastation as rioting protestors destroy it all in an explosion of violence.
The apocalyptic tone and feel escalates quickly but with consistency as Franco takes his camera though the ruined consequences of this Mexican city subject to military rule where rubble and destruction dominate and the unlucky survivors are herded into a cramped prison where they are brutalised by the soldiers and kept as hostages. Franco’s vision of permits, fear and mass transportation will be familiar to fans of the genre, but the writer/ director ensures that familiarity with these concepts is newly shaped by his merciless and, for some, shockingly senseless employment of cruelty.
The second strand focusing on the remaining members of the Novelo family dealing with the army’s demands is less clear; how some of the wedding guests escaped, where they are and how they can still access funds to be able to return to their homes and conduct funerals unhindered is never fully explained which detracts from the credibility of the overall scenario making it far harder to invest in their more restrained pain.
None of the characters has any particular depth or purpose except as cyphers for Franco’s escalating misery. Even Marianne (Naian González Norvind), who experiences the worst excesses of the new regime, though shaken, barely has the opportunity to convey the full horror of all she has been physically subjected to, while Monica Del Carmen’s Marta might just be the most sympathetic character as former housekeeper and go-between who pays for her allegiance to the family.
Time is fairly fluid in Franco’s film and its difficult to know the overall point he wants to make about social inequality given that the presentation of the perpetrators of the uprising lacks any understanding or explanation with no overt reasons behind their actions and their indiscriminate violence. But New Order (Nuevo Orden) is a gripping if disturbing 90-minute story, unrelenting in its management of tension and the portrayal of violence that may be too much for any viewers who like their cinema with a dash of hope.
The BFI London Film Festival runs from 7 to 18 October