The River and Death is about a surreal and barbaric small town somewhere in Mexico, in which killing is accepted in order to protect one's honor and family name and history. In the film, shooting someone proves to be manly and is applauded, however, it is illegal. But the bloody tradition and the town's close-mindedness seem to ignore the laws, even lawmen. Only a respected man, old and wise, decided that peace is the solution and because of his perseverance, the town changed, and guns were banned and people were friendlier. It was not until the old man's death that things turned disastrous again and because vengeance is hereditary, it was on two men's hands (each, the last member of rival families) to decide the fate of the town: violence or peace.
One of these men, Gerardo, is cultured and educated as he studied medicine in the city. The other one, is still a townsman who believes in machoism and guns to settle problems. The film offers a reflection on the meaning of manhood, education, and the importance of carrying traditions and the weight of the family name. The perceptions of traditions and costumes that people are raised with can be seen as the pure truth and may blind some, stopping them from perceiving a better world, organized and rational.
Crossing the river represents the alienation of the killers (who temporarily hide to escape the law) and the killed (who are buried there).
Worth a look.