Chac: The Rain God

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

The element of rain is very important to the residents of a small Tzeltal village in Mexico, important for a great number of reasons. The rains ensure the crops are well watered and by turn, the good harvests ensure the villagers are well fed, which is one of the very basic elements of life, of course. But this village has been subjected to a long, horrific drought that has left them desperate for even a single droplet to crash into the land. The usual steps are taken to bring back rain, but when the shaman’s powers prove to be futile in overcoming the drought, it looks as if little other options exist for the villagers. A small glimmer of hope emerges in the talk of a Diviner who lives in the mountains, but while the villagers know of this very private person and the rumors of his knowledge, no one is certain of his intentions. With no choice, a team of villagers is sent to seek guidance from the Diviner, who is able to give them instructions and tells them that if they’re followed, the rains will return to the land. But in order for him to call upon Chac, the Rain God, a great journey is needed and as time passes, the villagers begin to run into all kinds of problems. Is this Diviner leading them toward the drought’s end, or simply toward their own demises?

This picture has a mystical texture to it, one that fills the viewer with wonder, but it also seems very natural, which is why it works so well. I found Chac: The Rain God to be a filmed fable at its core, a tale of a distant culture with beliefs much different than my own, but it has a sense to it that makes it seem like second nature at times. I think it is this balance between normal life and mystical elements that makes this such a memorable movie, as even though we might not hold the same core beliefs, we’re able to disappear inside this world for a while. The premise is rather simple at the start, but as time passes, more subtle notions pass through and deepen the film, as well as the characters within it. The cast is made up of non actors, but that is the perfect option here, as I doubt many actors could be as natural as this, especially in this kind of production. In addition, the lush visuals pull us inside this unusual place, covered in shades of green and brown, all of which are captured with skill by the filmmakers. I’d never seen Chac before, but I am very glad I was able to and if you have even a casual interest in film, I recommend you look into this film also. And as Image and The Milestone Collection have assembled a nice package here, there’s no reason to look elsewhere, this is one solid, worthwhile release.

Video: How does it look?

Chac: The Rain God is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. As this film was shot under less than optimum conditions, the visuals don’t look as refined as modern productions, but then again, nor should we expect a film like this to live up to those standards. In fact, this film all but vanished for a while, before it was found, cleaned up, and re-released in recent times. As it turns out, Chac looks much better than I had expected and while flawed, Milestone has done some terrific work with the materials. The print has minimal defects evident, though some minor ones do remain behind and at times, the image has some jump, all overlookable flaws, in this case. The black levels look sharp and allow ample detail to be seen, which is great news, since this is a rather dark picture. I found colors to be bright and natural too, a very impressive transfer, given the materials involved.

Audio: How does it sound?

The original Tzeltal & Mayan language is preserved in this mono option, with English subtitles also included. I don’t have a whole lot to say in this area, as I never had any real issues with this track, but it never raised my interest much either. In a film like this one, you don’t need have memorable audio, just a serviceable track and that’s what we have here, no complaints in the least on this one. Even age related flaws were minimal, which is good news in this case, given the production conditions and history of the material. A solid, more than acceptable audio treatment, just what the material needed and as such, no worries on this end.

Supplements: What are the extras?

An audio commentary with director Rolando Klein has been included here, which is a most welcome, insightful inclusion. Klein talks about his days with the villagers, the actual production, and he touches on many other topics as the track continues. I found Klein to be very literate and well prepared, very little time is wasted here and Klein shares a vast amount of information. This disc also includes some still photos, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.

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