New Order, directed by Michael Franco, is about a wealthy, elite family in Mexico City celebrating a wedding as protesting and violence occur outside. The film has beautiful, striking direction in a lot of scenes where the artistic and horrific merge. Initially, the film appears to be an Animal Farm-esque story about the oppressed becoming the oppressor. But a shift in the movie fosters uncertainty as to the intended message of the movie.
New Order opens with artistic visuals, colors, and beauty interspersed with scenes of violent aftermath. We began our journey with Rolando (Eligio Meléndez) and his sick wife. They are rushed out of a hospital as more beds are needed to accommodate the injured from the uprising. This disorganized evacuation in a dim hospital cuts to a pile of corpses covered in blood, dirt, and green paint. Gunfire and helicopters sound in the background before we move again. Then we are transported to the opulent, joyous celebration of a wealthy family. They wait for a judge to marry their daughter Marianne (Naian González Norvind) to her handsome, also wealthy, fiancé. Then all hell breaks loose.
Direction Is Stellar
Michael Franco’s direction in New Order intentionally uses the camera for maximum effect. It lulls the audience before getting cringingly close. Camera angles force us to experience these horrors alongside the wealthy. It feels like a cautionary tale for the rich. Viewers outside the 1% elite will wonder what the message is for the rest of us. It gives a quick, surface view of the poor as though all that matters is their economic status and rage.
The point of view broadens sporadically. We get glimpses of Rolando as well as Marta (Mónica Del Carmen) and Cristian (Fernando Cuautle), a mother and son. They also work for Marianne’s family. Still, the focus primarily stays with the rich. That becomes an issue as we sit with the light-skinned elite during a violent, chaos-ridden attack from poor, often brown-skinned people, including the hired help. It paints the wealthy as innocent victims, just living their best lives, and the poor as violent, inhumane, and untrustworthy.
Violence Is Hard To Watch
Though perhaps not Saw graphic, the violent scenes are vivid, but New Order may prove too traumatic for some moviegoers. The acting is underplayed and makes the violent scenes so much worse. Parts of the film are a challenge to sit through. If your favorite color is green, this film may lead you to choose another. The film has different possible interpretations that will depend on what each viewer notices. Whether that was by design it may ultimately leave audiences torn on whether to curse the film or applaud it.
As the film progresses, we realize that there is more at play. A lot of the characters we travel with are unaware pawns in a larger scheme. Some people seize opportunities during civil unrest and claim the city, country, nation’s “best interests”. New Order demonstrates this masterfully by the end.
Powerful Message Here Nonetheless
The difference between the opposing sides—rich and poor, light-skinned and dark-skinned, even light and dark settings, is stark. Little goes beyond those diametrical points. The film is similar to the award-winning Parasite; it just changed the viewpoint from poor to rich. But later, we realize this was little more than a distraction or bait and switch for what lay beneath. Who the new order of the title is may surprise audiences.
New Order is a powerful film that will leave viewers clutching their seats in discomfort. The acting and content are engaging. The most disturbing aspect of the film is how possible it is. A lot of what occurs doesn’t feel too far removed from what’s happening in the world. New Order feels scarily on the horizon.