Comments Off on Redes

According to Martin Scorsese’s introduction to the Criterion Collection release of Redes (1936) the film is the product of a collaboration between the Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas, the Austrian expatriate director Fred Zinnemann, and American cinematographer Paul Strand. It’s fairly obvious in the first few minutes of Redes that each artist is bringing their best to Redes. Redes itself is a film of idealism. It’s a picture whose use of non-actors and documentary realism predict Italian neo-realism while at the same time engaging in the socialist discourse and montage of the Russian greats Dziga Vertov and Sergei Eisenstein.

Redes tells the simple story of an impoverished fishing community that is spurred into action by a fisherman whose son has recently died due to a lack of medicine. It’s a film whose synopsis reads like the headline of a newspaper article. Films of political advocacy often frame themselves as “real life” events captured on film with the intention of either warning or instructing the audience with regards to handling specific events that have their roots in the paranoias of a particular political view. Redes is an anti-capitalist film that celebrates socialism.

Redes achieves the purest form of visual poetry when there is no dialogue and the film operates as a silent film. In the union of Revueltas’ music and Strand’s images Redes is able to evoke the outrage of the fisherman, the natural beauty of Mexico’s coast, and the great vastness of the ocean and the sky with an emotional potency that just does not exist in scenes with dialogue. Sound recording for film had not been perfected in Mexico at the time so Zinnemann and his co-director Emilio Gómez Muriel had to instruct the performers to speak slowly, over enunciate, and to stay still (so the sound could be synced later).

A dichotomy of cinematic expression defines Redes. The theatricality and plasticity of the dialogue scenes directly oppose the fluid and poetic sequences where music is the dominant force. It’s this division that prevents Redes from ultimately working as a picture. In the aforementioned introduction to the film Martin Scorsese even infers that Redes is more compelling as a historical document than as a piece of entertainment.