Sunday 9 February 2020

Norte, the End of History [2013]

Lav Diaz’s mammoth and magnificent Norte, the End of History – ironically, the Filipino master’s shortest film despite its staggering 4-hour length – is as epic in its thematic breadth and ambition, as it’s intimate in its evocations. A modern day adaptation of Crime and Punishment, the Dostoyevskian movie touched upon such themes as morality, coincidence, guilt, and the futility of justice and redemption. Fabien (Sid Lucero), a smug, arrogant, potentially reactionary and pathologically disilussioned guy, who’s left law school midway despite his academic brilliance, murders the greasy loan shark Magda (Mae Paner) because of his belief that all bad elements must be expunged and exterminated from the society; he becomes an aimless drifter thereafter, and the devastating consequences of his pat rationalization of good and evil are felt near the end when, after many years of estrangement, he visits his devout and placid elder sister. A parallel strand revolved around an impoverished couple, Joaquin (Archie Alemania) and Eliza (Angeli Bayani), who’ve staked all their belongings to Magda; though he’s accused of the crime and imprisoned, he refuses to lose his sense of idealism; his soft-spoken wife, in a heart-wrenching turn, takes up the cudgels of earning a modicum of survival for her two kids. Interestingly, the film started on a verbose note, filled with abstract debates in a mock-serious tone, but grew increasingly bleak, contemplative, melancholic and even troubling as it progressed. Filmed in a mix of medium and long shots, and comprising of a number of single takes – which, especially where there were meandering conversations within them, struck me as deceptively brilliant – this is a complex, intriguing and meditative work that both demands and rewards patience.

Director: Lav Diaz
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama
Language: Filipino
Country: Philippines

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