Protestors demanding change. Fires being started. Phone lines dying. Roads closing. Mass chaos. Nightly lootings. A revolution is taking place in Mexico, so it’s the perfect time for a lavish wedding, naturally. No, this isn’t a cinematic response to our current global pandemic, it’s just the beginning of New Order (although it’s just as timely).
Writer-Director-Producer Michel Franco presents a conflict of interest for his main characters. Before their child gets married and lives happily ever after, the parents of the groom to be receive a request for assistance by a former employee. His wife is gravely sick, requiring $200,000 pesos for an emergency heart-valve surgery to save her life. After getting rebuffed by most of the family, the wife to be is the only one sympathetic enough to offer assistance. As soon as she leaves her planned festivities, armed protestors invade the wedding, killing some, while the rest are robbed and the very expensive property is pretty much destroyed.
The twist here is that our hero survives the uprising, but once she arrives to help a familiar face, she is kidnapped by a group of the country’s corrupt military soldiers. No good deed shall go unpunished.
At the local jail, these wealthy survivors get extorted, so the guards have no problem roughing up their victims in order for their demands to be met. It is at this point where my eyes were opened to the true graphic nature of the film. Full-body nudity was already shown, but in conjunction with a brutal rape scene and sodomization of the victims, a public hanging and an eventual firing squad in all its bloodiness (and the eventual burning of the bodies), filmmaker Franco spares no shocks for his viewers.
This is home invasion meets survival horror, with a drenching of political polarization on a wedding day, as told through subtitles. Sounds like a familiar formula, right? Could New Order be this year’s Parasite? There’s definitely plenty of social commentary offered by both, but Order‘s underclass is less sympathetic with the brutal resolutions to their struggles. And what was the purpose of it all? I really feel Franco’s resolution could well be used as a propaganda piece for a corrupt government AND an uprising. Either stay in line or this Mexican stand-off will happen to you (whether that’s the looting of the rich and/or the killing of the kidnappers). Sounds odd, but it could encourage both.
I really liked the concept of green paint equals reformation, but I think the idea could have been used more effectively with some subtleness. The set pieces are great, looking very expensive, with plenty of background actors taking part. Reading subtitles to watch the movie is no problem when you always use the tool to watch everything on your television at home. And apparently, the locals were restless with this film’s release.
New Order was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2020 Venice Film Festival, but when it was widely released in Mexico, the film received negative responses by audiences and its online backlash was intense, criticizing its stereotypical and classist themes. Franco even claimed to be the victim of reverse racism. Needless to say, it’s box-office results were meager, to say the least. But those kind of credentials should lead to an easy route for the Best Foreign Language Film award. I’ve got a feeling the Academy would gladly nominate the film after everything that occurred within the United States during 2020. The movie practically glorifies mass destruction, which seems to fit hand in hand with the voting board’s politics. And it’s very possible that Oscar voters will finally see the light… again.
New Order creates a believable non-fiction nightmare, incorporating class warfare at its most brutal. I don’t think it will have the same profound effect on American audiences as last year’s Parasite, but it is just as powerful.