BROKEN SKY (Julián Hernández, 2006)

Sadly reminiscent of another insufferable Mexican film, Alfonso Cuarón’s Y tu mamá también (2001), Broken Sky (El cielo dividido) lays claim to being 2006’s worst film. Its subject matter is the idyllic launch and then painful disintegration of a romantic relationship between two teenaged boys at college. They are shown extensively in bed doing all sorts of things, as though writer-director Julián Hernández were insisting on how versatile homosexual lovemaking can be. Frankly, I don’t really know what the point of this movie is, or could be, because for none of its excrutiating 140 minutes does it appear to be about anything. It is, alas, a poetical exercise in directorial self-indulgence, although its title, at least, is less fulsome than that of Hernández’s earlier Mil nubes de paz cercan el cielo, amor, jamás acabarás de ser amor (A Thousand Clouds of Peace Fence the Sky, Love; Your Being Love Will Never End, 2003). Inserted into the closing credits are stills of Hernández directing cast and crew.

Except for sappy background music (except in the club scenes, where the ear-splitting sounds are a match for the eye-splitting strobe lights), Broken Sky is almost entirely silent. There is hardly any dialogue. Call it a dream that goes bad, and with such angst, as Boy #3 interrupts the perfect attachment between Gerardo and Jonás. Happy faces turn weepy, mean, angry. Betrayal sucks.

The exact particulars of the plot are near impossible to follow, but viewers are free to go with the flow and let the all-round misery wash over them. But lousy, selfconscious filmmaking is likely to make many viewers resistant. Let me give an example of one of the arty effects that Hernández goes after repeatedly. The camera leaves a boy’s dark-enshrouded face—well, it is always, I believe, Gerardo’s face—and travels screen-left or screen-right into utter darkness, whereupon the next dim light we see reveals again the same boy, but from a different perspective. I will leave to others all exploration of the implicit pathology involved in Hernández’s inability to pry his eye away from this particular boy; but by such effects this film operates. Nothing is expressive of anything, except perhaps a vague, disconsolate mood, but Hernández always has some trick handy to draw attention to his visual imaginativeness. The poor man has convinced himself he’s Orson Welles.

It is impossible for me to take seriously such a film. Art is supposed to be expressive, not an occasion for empty flourishes. (The film opens with a mammoth quotation from Marguerite Düras’s script for Hiroshima, mon amour, and subsequently one of the boys’ hay-rolls is shot in imitation of one of the lovemaking scenes in Alain Resnais’s 1959 film.) Nor does it help that some third-person voiceover periodically interrupts the action to pontificate on love and loss in terms that are ridiculously trite. Grasping at straws, critic Keith Uhlich, in Slant Magazine, suspects that “the film’s frank, at times glorious rendering of queer sexuality will inspire more than a few closeted youths to brave life out in the open.” Could be; but the fact that the movie provides such a social benefit is irrelevant as to its quality.

When a movie has no intrinsic value, how some people will wax about its extraneous benefits!

There is a lovely fleeting moment in the film where we see a mother’s warm acceptance of her son’s sexual orientation. At that moment I felt that Hernández ought to have made a film about her and not these simpering teenagers, two of whom I had a devil of a time distinguishing between. It would appear that Hernández prefers a “definite type,” a “particular look.” Hernández attempts to resolve the problem by giving the taller of the two lookalikes a mustache and a bit of facial hardware. Ah, but brighter lighting would be needed for such a ploy to help!

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