1936 // Mexico // Emilio Gómez Muriel, Fred Zinneman
Criterion Collection (LINK)
Redes belongs to the group of films that the historical significance is far greater than the quality of the film itself, it merits as the precursor of neorealism that took roots in post-WWII Italian cinema. Redes is an international collaborative work in a nation that had endured damages from civil war and rebellion since 1910s, and most importantly it’s the aesthetic product resulted from the amalgamation of several artistic inputs. First and foremost, Paul Strand, an acclaimed American photographer, was responsible for the eventual project of “docu-fiction” as he co-wrote the story with Agustin Velásquez Chávez and took control of the exquisitely stylised cinematography. Redes was co-directed by the young Mexican filmmaker Emilio Gómez Muriel and the Austrian-born German exile Fred Zinnemann, who would further develop a fascinating career in Hollywood and achieve much wider recognition globally. And Zinnemann was no newcomer for collaborative fimmaking as he was the cinematography assistance of the German film People on Sunday (1930), a blend between documentary and fiction.
The scene behind Redes might be considered more riveting than the film itself where the central story is an explicitly political propaganda in showing the uprising of the leftists among the poverty-stricken fishermen against the exploitative fish buyer, merchant and politician. The majority of the actors were the local fishermen and villagers, the use of non-professional actors is without a doubt a conspicuous element of neorealism which offers a sensibility of reality where professional actors are short of. The sense of reality is strongest in the fishing scene which is basically, like Robert Flaherty’s Man of Aran (1934), a short documentary by its own account. Despite all that, the drama is too forceful in imposing the conflicts and ultimately fails to provide an affecting emotional impact like the Soviet films by Eisenstein. There’s too much imitation that one would take the film as an artificial commodity than a effective uprising call for political awareness.
Redes literally means “fisherman’s net”, it’s the tool for catching the powerless fish. The characters in the film have constantly proclaimed that living as a man is no big different than being a fish. Human, especially the underprivileged, is as fragile and defenseless as the fish and could be easily caught and consumed by a higher power. The film offers a solution without showing the resolution, the uprising indeed causes the loss of a man’s life and the spilled blood in turn unifies the unenlightened proletariat. As the English title of the film is called The Wave, the film ends with the shots of ferocious wave. It’s the wave of new ideology and reformation of social structure that either push the country forward or destroy it along the process. Redes is the witness of this process, but beyond that the film is thematically cheesy and ultimately fails to transcend that power.