Michel Franco’s New Order is punishing film. Unflinching and unforgiving this is a cautionary tale for societies.
Marianne’s (Naian Gonzaléz Norvind) wedding at the spectacular family home is besieged by several unexpected incidents: the registrar is late; social disturbances delay guests en route, and former employee Rolando turns up seeking a loan to get his wife urgent medical help. When Marianne attempts to aid Rolando, she finds herself caught up in a riot that rips through her wedding festivities with shocking consequences.
If you were not sure what to expect from New Order, Michel Franco soon lets you know with the clips of violence and unease, this is not going to be a happy story, yet not for the first time in the film, he swiftly moves away from this to a world seemingly thousands of miles away, but a whole lot closer to the hospital than the characters would imagine.
New Order centres on a wealthy family celebrating a wedding when a coup in the city begins to unfold. Franco sends his camera off to detail the horrific destruction that is happening outside this practical utopia. Our bride-to-be is bustling around the fashionable and affluent house mingling with guests and patiently waiting for the registrar. We slowly start to see the reason for the delay as some guests begin to come in late, the water in a bathroom runs green and the son of a former employee comes begging for money to help save his mother as she requires a private operation. The little clues for the unknowing party should be a warning sign, to get out and to get safe.
When destruction does come to this party, it does so in a devastating way thanks to a gang of protestors break into the beautifully decorated home. The tone switch is abrupt and while we were forewarned, it is still shocking. The poor are rising and the military uses this as an excuse to take control of the society and to have it the way they want to. They do not want the poor to rise and be equal, they want an even more stringent version of what they have now and they have the power to make sure this happens.
During all of this Marianne is kidnapped and held for ransom. Her former servants are the go-between between the captors and the family, but paranoia strikes. Why should the rich trust the poor? And breakdown rapidly occurs. The military blames all of this on the protestors and for the rich, they accept this. They do not want any more fight and in all likelihood, they would still be better off regardless (in their eyes anyway). So let the military have at it. Franco’s depicted of a proposed failure in society is alarming, but in specific countries, not unlikely. This is as much of a warning shot to people outside of the bubble than to those inside of it.
Make no mistake, this is not a clever film, there are no ulterior motives to New Order, Franco is here to show us what happens when civil unrest goes one step too far. Franco, of course, is no stranger to such graphic, unapologetic cinema. He wants his audience to feel uncomfortable and has done so for all of his previous 5 features.
Timed perfectly, in a world where civil unrest is rife everywhere, Franco can focus on our fears of what happens if citizens and the authorities lose control and we as normal people are left to fend for ourselves. The results are utterly terrifying and Franco forces the audience to watch for 88 fast forward paced minutes. The film length is actually much to the positive here as any longer and Franco would begin to lose the attention of his audience.
Were we falter in New Order is that Franco chooses to show a wide scope of the conflict instead of focusing on the group we started with (or who is left from that group at least). Instead of just massively staged scenes that begin to lose interest. We want to see the personal side of all of this, not just blanket emotionless coverage. Even if that is to the chagrin of our director. The sheer level of destruction, be it to the city/country or the people in it is just too much. New Order is a film that leaves you stunned and ultimately contemplative to the potential catastrophes out there in the world.
If Franco is leaning towards this being a cautionary tale for countries in the middle of conflict then there needs to be some more heart to the film. By solely having a single few characters appear to be compassionate, also to spend so little time with them to feel anything for them, we lose the emotion to Marianne’s plight and that is a shame.
There is a level of coldness and cynicism that is disturbing thanks to Franco refusing to pick a side in the ensuing battle. By never being fully connected to the violence, due to Franco’s decision to not allow us to have compassion for the people being murdered, we feel distant from them and his overriding message gets lost in the blood and green paint.
To view more of our reviews as we cover the London Film Festival 2020, please have a gander below!
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