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By Michael Ferraro | February 20, 2006

The screen dissolves from black to reveal a close-up of a man’s emotionless face. The camera starts to pan down his shapely and naked body, revealing his shoulders, his chest and his gut. As the shot moves past his large stomach, a female’s head is exposed. The back of the head is shown and by the way it’s moving, it’s easy to figure out that giving this man oral pleasure. The girl is years younger than him and when a shot finally exposes the _expression on her face in midst of the act, it’s obvious that either of the two seem to be enjoying themselves. Later on we learn that this woman isn’t his wife – she’s the daughter of his boss who happens to be a general of the daily flag ceremony in the city.

This portly fellow is Marcus (Marcos Hernandez) and the woman involved in this erotic encounter is Ana (Anapola Mushkadiz), the daughter of a General (also Marcus’ boss) who supervises the city’s daily flag ceremonies. Both of these characters have some intense secrets they are dealing with. Marcus and his wife kidnapped a friend’s baby to collect some ransom but they accidentally killed it (we are never shown how). Ana works at a local brothel and the only one who knows this secret is Marcus himself. He feels that since he knows her secret, why can’t he tell her about the baby?

There is an interesting set-up here for something great but “Battle In Heaven” never lives up to the expectations. Writer/director Carlos Reygadas chose to use non-actors for these roles, which require a lot of emotional depth, and he does a great job pulling performances out of them. The guilt of killing a child will no doubt haunt the one involved and it’s definitely apparent with Marcus’ character. Hernandez performs well combining the regretful with the dim-witted. Unfortunately the screenplay doesn’t give him more to work with. Too often scenes just feel they are going nowhere, various bizarre character interactions do nothing to help the story move along, and long camera pans scrolling by scenery seem like they last forever.

This film also includes a lot of graphic sex scenes with people of all shapes and sizes. This isn’t a complaint by any means but when it’s focused on a great deal, the narrative is robbed from moving along. One thing is for sure; the MPAA is going have fun with this one.

“Battle In Heaven” is a noble effort from Reygadas but not exactly a good one. For such an involving premise, there is not much going on to keep interest. His directing style is certainly unique enough to notice but the screenplay department could use some retooling on the next go round.

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