Then don’t tell them.
Seemingly taking a cue from television, writer/director Michel Franco provides us glimpses of the carnage to come at the opening of his latest incendiary drama Nuevo orden [New Order]. There’s a naked woman with blood dripping down her body in the rain. There’s paint splashed upon a window behind a bride trying on a white lace dress, a giant oil canvas adorning the wall of an affluent family’s home, and fire burning in the distance after thrown furniture shatters into a hundred pieces on the ground. These are images of an inevitable future caught in the midst of turmoil and corruption, rebellion and oppression. And it all comes crashing through hospital doors as patients with beds are asked to vacate so others can take their place.
A doctor telling Rolando (Eligio Meléndez) that he’ll have to move his ailing wife to a private clinic he cannot afford isn’t the last example of displacement we’ll see either. The film is full of such incidents as power and control is wrestled away from poor and rich alike. That’s the thing the wealthy often have a hard time coming to grips with because their privilege has provided them a false sense of security. They see the money and influence they wield as a means for safety because there are social classes beneath them who will be targeted first. But that’s a tenuous contract that their so-called protectors aren’t going to uphold if they find themselves in an advantageous position to steal even more without retribution.
Despite being set in Mexico City, the comparison to what’s happening today in America shouldn’t be lost on anyone as nationalists fight to give law enforcement greater authority at the same time as they’re murdering innocent people in the streets. This is how protests escalate: not by those marching, but by those refusing to let them. The less room you give people to legally demand rights as free citizens, the greater chance they pivot towards illegal ways of making their point heard. Fear then leads the rich to call for martial law so they can hide behind their secure walls with the exact same people who are rebelling in the streets. They lock themselves in with the “help” and continue to denigrate them with zero self-awareness.
The poor turn on the rich in an unforgettable scene of mayhem at the site of Marianne (Naian González Norvind) and Alan’s (Dario Yazbek Bernal) wedding. It’s a violent affair with a complete lack of remorse for those shot or spared and yet none of us watching could care less about these entitled victims of terrorism. Franco does his best to show us this fate is deserved (hyperbolically speaking, of course) after sending Rolando to their door. He has nowhere to turn but the employer he left seven years prior and what does Marianne’s mother (Lisa Owen‘s Rebeca) do? She collects twenty percent of what he needs from the pocket change of three guests and tells him to leave. Her son Daniel (Diego Boneta) does less.
Marianne is the sole member of the Novelo clan and their social equals who sees this man’s pain and provides the compassion necessary to actually do something. She leaves the site of her own nuptials to drive with the son (Fernando Cuautle‘s Cristian) of the family’s maid (Mónica Del Carmen‘s Marta) over to Rolando’s and take his wife to the hospital herself. But just as the chaos is about to hit the location she vacated, that same turmoil is igniting everywhere along the way. Blockades are set up to separate communities so the military can do nothing but stand-by and watch as violence erupts. Why? Because it benefits them to do so. By letting a few “important” people die, those who live will give them total control.
Franco presents an ingeniously orchestrated long con that’s probably been decades in the making. Pit those on both sides of the economic divide against each other and exploit their respective desire to blame the other for their suffering. Quarantine the poor under curfew so they grow angrier towards the rich for conversely moving freely whenever it suits them. Take every rich person in the wrong place at the wrong time and throw them into communal cells to do with them as they please on a road towards ransoming them off to their worried families all while the latter believe it’s the insurgents holding them hostage. The military keenly sets itself up between these worlds as jailors and saviors dictating rules and creating panic to line their own pockets.
It’s a nihilistic look at the dystopian future we’re so very close to seeing unfold outside our own windows. We become so incensed with each other that we ignore how men like Victor (Enrique Singer)—a Secretary of State type figure who the Novelos invited to the wedding—are quietly consolidating their power to stoke the flames and become puppet-masters for everything that follows. And the instant he pulls the trigger is the instant when stopping him is no longer an option. By that point everyone who could do something to expose his evil has been captured or killed. Soldiers have already embraced dual roles to ensure rich and poor implicitly fall in line as unwitting puppets in a game that strips the value of human life away.
That last part is key because we’re doing it right now as we speak. We’re diminishing the value of the elderly as we leave them to die of COVID-19. We’re diminishing the value of POC as we let the police and politicians suppress their voices. And we’re diminishing our own lives in the process by not realizing that authoritarians need people to subjugate. They will go through one marginalized group to the next until you—yes, you—become the one they target next. Unless you’re the one wearing the mask and holding the assault rifle who rapes prisoners and shoots those who’ve forfeited what little value they had left in the back, you’re going to eventually become the one they scoop up in that unmarked van.
So don’t think you know what’s going to happen during the aptly titled New Order. Don’t think money, allegiance, or alliances will save any character you meet on-screen. Franco draws them all as lambs to the slaughter—some simply arrive quicker than others. Whether you’re callously opportunistic or compassionately altruistic, you won’t be immune to the unapologetically brutal bloodshed. The military doesn’t care about your politics. They don’t care about your donations or favors. To them we’re all cash cows who could give more. We willingly put on a front of superiority to let them murder with impunity as long as we’re not in the crosshairs. And then we weep and beg once we are before inevitably ending up with a bullet in the brain just the same.
courtesy of TIFF