In this dystopian thriller, director and writer Michel Franco envisions a Mexico where the underclass has overthrown the elite rulers in a violent uprising. New Order (Nuevo Orden) is a horrifying and exceptionally angry film that has been steeped in controversy since its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival last year.
Inevitably, New Order has received a lot of comparisons to Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, but one massive difference between the two films is the perspective that the audience takes. While Parasite is told in relation to the struggling Kim family, New Order’s narrative offers the viewpoint of a high-society family, beginning with a lavish wedding of their daughter, Marianne (Naian González Norvind).
A rebellion on the streets comes right to the doorstep of this family during this wedding. Marianne is one of many privileged young adults who are kidnapped, tortured, and abused during this coup. Two of the family’s domestic workers, Marta (Mónica Del Carmen) and Cristian (Fernando Cuautle), however, attempt to assist Marianne’s brother (Diego Boneta) in arranging for her ransom and return.
Franco builds a bleak world wherein Mexico City has been fully militarized and people are killed for even minor transgressions. Franco’s use of extreme violence seeks to generate a discussion as to what could possibly happen if Mexico’s wealth disparity is not addressed. The question here is whether Franco is successful or if the violence is simply gratuitous. Certainly, New Order will leave an impression on those who watch it and perhaps people unaware of the strife in Mexico will seek to better understand it. However, this same impact would have been felt with the violence turned down even just a fraction.
Surprisingly, though, the excessive violence isn’t what has been drumming the controversy for New Order. Instead, the racial stereotyping of the poor has. The lower class are depicted as abhorrent savages and are portrayed by darker-skinned actors, while the upper class are the victims of the brutal class warfare and, of course, portrayed by fair-skinned actors.
While it’s difficult to have a discussion about socio-economic issues in Mexico without addressing race, barring any proper exploration as to why the upheaval in New Order is occurring in the first place, it’s easy to unfairly consider the underclass as just angry poor people. But it’s very possible that this is all by design.
Franco’s inspiration comes from the social unrest percolating around the globe in recent years. Perhaps Franco is tired of the onus of change being placed on the disenfranchised. By taking the perspective of the elite class, he gives viewers in that class something to relate to and something to fear. Whether right or wrong, the extremes Franco goes to manipulate an audience shows just how desperate he believes the situation to be.
New Order is a bold film that will continue to divide viewers and critics alike, but ultimately, if it forces more discourse on the vast and growing disparity between the rich and the poor, maybe that’s exactly as Franco intended.