Norte, the End of History


Director: Lav Diaz

Starring: Sid Lucero, Angeli Bayani, Archie Alemania, Angelina Kanapi

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 250 min

Fri, Jul 25, 2014, 00:00


Law school dropout Fabian is a lost soul wandering between intellectual conversations, an affair with his best friend’s girl and a vicious moneylender who is holding his ATM card.

Somewhere between all the pontifications and postulations about post-modernity and his country’s traumatic recent history, Fabian talks himself into “taking action”. His acts are pinned on the impoverished Joaquin, who is sent to prison, leaving his wife Eliza to fend for their two children.

No, we didn’t add a zero to the running time. But clocking in at just a little more than four hours, Filipino master Lav Diaz’ transplantation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment is a Shorter Funnier One when placed beside the director’s 2008 Venice prize-winner Melancholia (seven-and-a-half hours) or 2004’s Evolution of a Filipino Family (a whopping nine hours).

Car-chase junkies beware: the run time is actually less daunting than the director’s Amish-plain style. Prepare to strain your neck and refocus: there are no close-ups and no flourishes. Lauro Rene Manda’s scarcely discernable camera movement make the likes of Stranger Than Paradise or Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles look like hyperactive late- 1990s Oliver Stone.

The stillness and real-world inertia provide the calm before various storms. Norte, the End of History is punctuated by horrendous acts of violence – murder, rape, incest, torture – acts that are made all the more bruising by being partially or completely obscured. As Fabian’s latter-day Raskolnikov lunges further into despair and inhumanity, the consequent off-screen screams and whimpers prove worse than any conceivable visual.

It sounds horrific. It’s not. By way of contrast, Joaquin’s hellish imprisonment offers a strange redemption. A final tragedy feels perversely cathartic: like a happy release.

As is often the case with three-hour-plus projects, a sense of Stockholm Syndrome kicks in, leaving us happy to roll along with real-time rhythms of meals and walks and chores. Odd flights of fancy – a mosquito-eye trek across the landscape, a dream of levitation – add further textures and colours to a film that already qualifies as landmark.