Norte, the End of History



DIR/Lav Diaz • WRI: Lav Diaz, Rody Vera • PRO: Raymond Lee   DOP: Lauro Rene Manda  ED: Lav Diaz  DES: Perry Dizon MUS: Perry Dizon  CAST: Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane, Joseph Fiennes

In an age when editing is key and Hollywood big-wigs implore directors to shorten films as much as possible due to ever increasing costs, in comes Philippine director Lav Diaz with Norte, The End of History clocking in at a whopping 250 minutes. Either Diaz doesn’t hire editors or he just didn’t show up to the meeting on that particular day, we’ll never know.

In truth, Diaz’s latest offering is a mini feature in comparison to the seven-hour-epic, ‘Melancholia’ as the master of slow cinema returns with this tale of crime and punishment in the Philippines.

The crux of the story follows two sets of individuals who intertwine through the act of murder. Fabian (Sid Lucero) is a law-school dropout who, from the get go, is dissatisfied with how society is. A self-indulgent character who, seems like a spokesperson for the proletariat and wishing to destroy the capitalist world and the bourgeoisie. His increasing disdain for the world seen through constant drunken eyes and mind, he leaves a trail of destruction behind him everywhere he goes as his talk of action propels into frightening physical acts of violence.

Joquain (Archie Alemania) is a staunch family man. Despite poverty, he does everything possible for his family even if it means borrowing from a local loan shark. His world is turned upside down when he is wrongly accused of murdering wealthy loan shark played by Mae Paner and her daughter in their home.

In reviewing this film, there’s two ways of looking at it. Firstly, the story and filmmaking itself are both exceptional. Secondly, what is being presented on screen is extremely disturbing and does not necessarily sit well with this reviewer personally.

Prolonged shots during many scenes may feel a bit over indulgent and unnecessary at times however, Diaz captures the mood and encompasses characters like nobody else on screen. Long moments of pure silence really capture the mood and allow the audience to fully embrace and warm towards characters.  Four hours may seem like a long running time but the connection between filmgoers and the characters is handled extremely well for the most part in the case of Joquain and his family especially.

To counteract this point, there are times when the camera perhaps stays for too long especially after traumatising scenes of murder, rape and overly violent scenes.

There has and will continue to be more graphic violence and images shown on the big screen and in this reviewer’s opinion, it’s unnerving and unnecessary to prolong the image. It almost feels like Diaz is actively trying to depress the audience in some cases.

It’s a haunting, chilling and bleak but a film that is made extremely well. While there are disturbing visuals, what is most horrifying are the suggestive tones that lurk underneath the surface with which Diaz invites the audience to explore the dark recesses of their own minds.

In truth, this is one of the toughest reviews I’ve ever had to do. I’ve never been so divided in my own verdict. On the one hand, it’s exceptional filmmaking and is a real treat for seasoned lovers of cinema. On the other hand, it almost feels immoral to encourage people to go and see it due to its disturbing nature.

It’s a tough watch but those brave enough to sit through this 250-minute showcase will be duly rewarded.

Shane Saunders

250 mins

Norte, The End of History is released on 25th July 2014

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