I wanted to have one specific moment that jumped from the screen and attached itself to me.
That one specific moment, the type that usually comes only after soaking myself in a world of long takes, slowed down scenes and conversations;ones that often emerge from the 7 hr plus sort of films one expects from Lav Diaz.
Seeing his latest film at NYFF yesterday, NORTE, THE END OF HISTORY, i wasnt left with any one or three moments that tore at my spirit and emerged bigger than time. This is something ive felt at other Diaz films, such as the the slow, temporally experiential black and white ones where character and setting bore at you until they become screamingly specific and touching. Such lessons are unhurriedly cultured in MELANCHOLIA, FLORENTINA HUBALDO,CTE as well as EVOLUTION OF A FILIPINO FAMILY.
All three of those films, all movies i strongly admire, were experiences, trials, and immersive oppurtunities.
NORTE, just as esteemable, accomplishes its ends in more specific and targeted ways.
Some level of poeticism has been razed, perhaps in honor of narrative cohesion. The narrative unspools over a group of people whose lives touch each other in the ways that the touch of a hand impact another in a film like Bresson's L'ARGENT or PICKPOCKET. The victims of the film are disparate yet connected, by way of a novelistic approach to form. One victim rises like a phoenix, imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, he has a chance to separate from Capitalistic struggles and nurse his Spirit. Another victim, depicted as a pig, is denied our pity. Later in the film an actual pig is separated from a farm family to be sold, and a child is distraught over losing him. Soon after , a third major vicitm is killed, and it is an innocent dog. Now the perception of the woman who was depicted as a pig is complicated. Diaz illustrates his points by elevating the spirtual content of people and denaturing the benefits of Capitalist community.
His other films speak to Capitalism and the cruetly and evil that is borne from money.
But they do so in more langorous and roundabout ways. NORTE seems to have the same aims but delivers them, still in long take, but in shorter , tighter long takes And in color.. A few minutes may be spent on a small urban studio apartment shot , complete with large dog picture on the wall and a japanese lantern and bed. But unlike Diaz' other films, this one is directly related to plot, although it may seem initially as uneventful as the many long shots that add up to the cumulative experience of his other films. This information in this shot informs us later when the character who lives here is reunited with the dog in the photo.
There is less odd mannerism and character observation; Diaz seemingly more in favor of direct political renderings of history. To be both crude and accurate this is Bresson meets Dostoyevsky meets Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD. Coming out in between the birth of the new terrorism in 2001 and the major american recession of 2008, THE ROAD always spoke to me as a novel about...the end of history. But specifically the end of American history, that story of a cowboy and his son, who could no longer expect to fulfill a dream of a better world and a capitalist climb.
There is a moment in THE ROAD, a book i read several years ago, that still vibrates bracingly with me. The man and his son are walking along and come upon a campsite where everything, as it is at the end of the world where only cannibals and a few 'good' men remain, is covered with ash and embers. There is something that had been cooked that is charred over coals. As the young son realizes what it is the father suddenly sees it is a small human infant, headless, who had been charred and eaten.
I recalled this moment a couple of weeks ago when I read a novel called THE BALLAD OF WEST TENTH STREET. i was not too fond of this book, but there is one notable strand of the story that deals with a nice homeless man who has picked up and touchingly cares for a small cat who becomes his best friend.
There is a character in the book who is described as the Angry One..he is another homeless man, but not one who is able to connect with people and animals as the nice one does. All he can do is compare and look at others and see what he himself does not have, so all he can do is destroy things for others.
In one elongated sequence of the book he attacks the cat until he is drowned in a well. I recall reading how despite his clawing at the walls and trying so hard to live and to survive, eventually the cat felt the wet fill its lungs, and then it died.
This is a beautiful moment in the book, and it is also so desperately sad because it is so true. we are all destroyed by our wants and our needs not being met. We are destroyed by the greed and destruction of our culture.
The same moment reminds me of many moments in THE ROAD and the way that amazing book is written.
I had the oppurtunity to be reminded of both of these books in the third quarter of NORTE, THE END OF HISTORY. That beloved dog in the bedroom photo who is lovingly reunited with...he is murdered in a wordless, extended scene where anger, comparison, mania and guilt culminate in violent psychosis.
There is a more pivotal (plot wise) murder earlier in the film, but the murder of the dog is that one thing that jumped off the screen to me. The emotion of this scene is so much more confusing and hopeless.
The first murder screams politics, because the woman killed is a Capitalist pig who lives a privliged bourgeois existence. She is perceived as less of a victim because of her financial status, but after the murder of the dog her role of victim is clarified . The slaughtered woman, the dog, and the man wrongly imprisoned for her crime, are all buried in the ashes of Capitalism; their fate caught by the look of The Angry One.
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