My friends and I decided to spend more than four hours of our Sunday to watch Lav Diaz’s ‘Norte: The End of History,’ or as my friend Elfer put it, Norte: The End of Attention Span. While a swarm of pre-teens lined up for She’s Dating the Gangster (God bless Philippine cinema), my pretentious friends and I decided to check out the other Filipino film which was screened at Cannes.
The film, loosely based on Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, revolves around an opinionated law school dropout, Fabian, and his frustration with the Philippines. In actualizing his Machiavellian desire to rid society of evil, he kills an abusive usurer and her daughter, and flees to the city. An innocent father of a poor family takes the fall. After four years, Fabian returns to the province to atone for his sins, but his guilt and intellectual convictions drive him on the dangerous edge of sanity.
In coming up with my opinions on a movie, I rely on my immediate impression after the film ends, after which I rationalize why my thoughts and feelings were such. It’s my first time to watch a Diaz film, and I’m afraid I struggled digesting the four-hour opus. Up to now I still don’t know what to make of it. In explaining my thoughts to a friend, I said I thought understanding the film was like learning German. I know a little German, but I don’t really know German.
Let’s start digesting it then.