Norte, The End of History Movie Review
At four hours long, this film isn't for casual moviegoers, but fans of ambitious cinema will enjoy its scale, even though it's more of an extended personal drama than a proper epic. Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz is known for his lengthy projects (this is actually one of his shorter movies), but he has a way of digging into a story to capture both the tiniest character detail and the much bigger picture.
The film follows two men whose lives impact each other in a series of events inspired by Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. First there's Fabian (Sid Lucero), a law school dropout who hangs out with his student pals discussing how society is heading into oblivion because nothing means anything anymore. Meanwhile, poor working class dad Joaquin (Archie Alemania) is unable to work due to an injury, which is putting severe pressure on him, his wife Eliza (Angeli Bayani) and their young children. Both Fabian and Joaquin are in debt to the local loan shark Magda (Mae Paner), a harsh woman who won't hear any excuses. In a moment of rage, Fabian kills Magda and her daughter, but the suspicion falls on Joaquin, who is wrongly convicted and sent to prison. As he adjusts to his grim new life behind bars, Eliza struggles to survive, while Fabian tries to soothe his conscience with good acts before giving up on morality altogether.
Intriguingly, although their lives are inextricably entwined, Diaz and his cowriter Rody Vera never let Fabian and Joaquin meet. As the privileged, cold-hearted Fabian goes through his own private hell, the nobly poor Joaquin and Eliza continually try to make the best of of their respective prison and poverty. Thankfully for a film with such a bleak premise, this isn't a mopey downer. Diaz directs each scene with a bristling edge of energy that allows the characters to emerge as fully formed people whose decisions and actions resonate with provocative honesty. Meanwhile, he also adds several poetic touches with the gorgeous coasts and countryside, sweeping camerawork and just a bit of magical realism.
On the other hand, the film is more than four hours long, which is rather excessive. Watching it is like sitting through four episodes of a TV series in which things happen very slowly. But the issues the events explore are gripping, especially as Diaz shifts back and forth between the idealistic rich and the pragmatic poor. In this case, money certainly doesn't make up for a lack of morality. And the final act is a series of nasty violence and unclear surrealism designed to challenge viewers to think about the issue. It's also a startling portrait of the disparity of life in the Philippines, with parallels that are all too recognisable anywhere on earth.
Cast & Crew
Director : Lav Diaz
Producer : Raymond Lee
Screenwriter : Lav Diaz, Rody Vera
Starring : Sid Lucero, Angeli Bayani, Archie Alemania, Angelina Kanapi, Mae Paner, Soliman Cruz, Hazel Orencio, Ian Lomongo