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“Only The Dead Have Seen The End Of War” – New Order (Toronto International Film Festival Review)

4 min read

During most film festival circuits, hype and controversy tends to fluctuate evenly; where most films are commonly exaggerated in order to commence some sort of social media buzz. Very rarely do films tend to shock its unaware audience, where film festival crowds are usually part of the first wave verdict when it comes to defining a film's legacy and success. In the case of Michel Franco's gleefully diabolical New Order (Nuevo Orden), where it first launched at this year's Venice Film Festival and garnered the prestigious silver lion accolade; the film will go down as one of the most divisive pieces of art to be released in the first half of what seems to be a very long-winded decade. For good reason too, because the film both highlights and scrutinises all parties involved, in a righteous social horror that will leave every member of the status quo shook. 

Where some may take issue with Franco's depiction of the protestors and their motives, there's a little more going on below the surface. Franco is specifically commenting on the platform of the fictional events, where it seems as though the supposed “new order” proposed by these people is merely just a new government, sloppily built upon the already pre-existing dysfunctional system. It's a critique on the absurdity of nationalism, how a country's blind faith in its people and lore can result in revolt that merely creates more negative stigma against the commonwealth. As each person dresses themselves with green and red paint, the more apparent does the flawed symbol of Mexico's high flying flag become. The only true way to reform a system is by destroying and rebuilding it, not sloppily adding to the casualty count. There's a blind sense of awareness in the reliance of the system; that from its very inception is corrupt. New Order is a universal cautionary tale, in how the bi-product of blind-faith and the supposed restoration of politics built upon an already corrupt system can lead to further pain and suffering. 

On the other side of the narrative spectrum are the rich, lavish photogenic a-holes who fine wine and dine as they ignore their workers; who are displaced against the backdrop of the working class. For them, everything is transactional. Money is constantly shifted, gifts are shared. Franco seduces his audience with his detailed dialogue, where nearly every spoken word specifically alludes to the transactional artifice of the friendships and even romantic relationships featured amongst the 1%. A notable image featured in the film of a group of rich party guests huddled up, drinking and vaping, as a nearby protestor is watching outside the window out of focus is an engrossing visual metaphor of our current strenuous times. 

Franco even attempts to subvert expectations, by creating a supposed “white saviour” protagonist, who ultimately creates more harm for her companions and friends than any actual good. The photogenic stereotypes are what sets the stage for the numerous puppetry and ploys within New Order, as Franco continuously rivals his convoluted narrative with more thought-provoking visual metaphors regarding class structure and warfare. All coming full circle, the concept of the concentration camp featured in the film is one that comes with the dangerous drawbacks of any major cultural revolution. In a system that is already poorly built upon a damaged foundation, the catharsis of greed and the fetishistic mindset of extortion and the desire for vengeance always comes with a cost.  In the end of Franco's dystopian narrative, he warns the audience that if we continue to build upon a fractured systems, it may lead to more harm and pain regarding the society's image of minorities and the working class. 

For a moment, we have our fun and continuously indulge with our new found freedom. But in a new order, and in a new society, there is no time for funny games or righteous business. There is only the continuation of what we've all been fighting against, this time hurdling at all of us at a more painful and scrutinising rate with glorious fanfare. At this rate, Franco is literally spelling out his message with the font of the film, where words are mirrored against each other to create a narrative allusion to the madness to come. New Order is a blasphemous time bomb of rage, one that is meant to stir controversy and discourse. Though any great piece of modern art should always aim to create some sort of conversation. The art of conversation is what leads to better societies; and in a current world where Franco's depicted “new order” seems eerily similar to our own present reality, it's important to avoid repeating one's mistakes in the perilous journey ahead. It doesn't get any more literal and bombastic then this folks! 

Dir: Michel Franco

Scr: Michel Franco

Cast: Naian González Norvind, Diego Boneta, Mónica del Carme

Prd: Michel Franco, Eréndira Núñez Larios, Cristina Velasco

DOP: Yves Cape

Country: Mexico

Year: 2020

Run time: 86 minutes

New Order screened at this year's . Neon will release the film in the US and Mubi will release the film in the UK and Ireland in the coming months.

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