It would probably be more shocking to discover a Michel Franco film that doesn’t leave you with a sickly feeling in your stomach, so of course, New Order does just that. This Mexican-French thriller is viciously shocking from start to finish—but the brutal dystopia lacks any depth or insight.
In a house so grand it would give that of Parasite’s Kim family a run for their money, the first act of New Order introduces us to the extremely wealthy victims of violent protests during the wedding of Marian (Naian González Norvind) and Alan (Dario Yazbek Bernal). The house, we learn, was designed by the bride’s brother, Daniel (Diego Boneta), who seems like nothing more than a bratty rich kid. From the get-go, the class divide is obvious. Obnoxiously arrogant and wastefully affluent, Franco would have no trouble convincing anybody that we have our villains – but that’s not the case.
Before we realise that our unlikely victims are going to get more than they bargained for from the protesters, and we would have to spend the rest of the film feeling sorry for them, there’s a sense of mystery. The tension rises perfectly, never being forgotten in the busy party dialogue as green paint—a symbol of the revolution to come—follows unsuspecting guests. This anxiety sets up the storming of the party, one of the more horrific scenes, brilliantly. Characters we trusted turned on the family and the mercilessness of the killers and looters was incredibly distressing, but impossible to look away from.
Unfortunately, although the shock factor Franco first exhibits fits the narrative perfectly, he soon starts to shoehorn it in at any given opportunity. Within half an hour or less, we know New Order is a film where anything goes. Muddled scenes showing the destruction outside the world of our main characters depict such appalling acts of dehumanisation that all hope for any character we may have grew to care for is lost. The big picture has been shown too soon, therefore any ruthless fate they may face (like poor Rolando) is already foreseen. Any attempt to turn it into another upsetting surprise would always appear half-hearted.
Within the powerful snippets of violence we see, there are some impressive subtle moments in New Order that capture the pain and torment excellently, even if still incredibly disturbing. Some show children being roughly laid to rest by other victims, one boy survives the attack, only to have his life taken away again; all under the ironic, spray-painted peace symbol. Franco portrays a group of people so threatening and savage, but there’s no way of understanding just what he’s attempting to say. The young girl, who was nothing if not innocent, and the determination of Cristian (Fernando Cuautle), who tries desperately to save the life of a woman who had everything while he had very little, would’ve most likely been a much more moving story.
However, we see the cruelty through the eyes of the rich. There seems to be no balance in the class divide set up from the very start. The protesters seemingly despised the rich, but also killed the poor. And while Marian was a victim throughout the entire film, it was also the her affluent family who essentially gave Cristian and his mother a death sentence. Politically, there seems to be no motivation at all, making for a pointless display of bloodshed.
New Order starts off strong, creating a suspenseful and shadowy presence haunting the characters of a secretive, dystopian world. Despite the explosive beginning, it’s the secrecy that soon leads the rest of the film to fall considerably into nothing more than an artistic, yet distressing display of extremism that exists solely for shock value.
Words by Libby Briggs
Other reviews from the London Film Festival can be found here.
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