3 Films by Lav Diaz


Pascal Grenier for Cinetalk.net

Film director  Lavrente Indico Diaz  (born 1958) just won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival with his latest epic The Woman Who Left. The Filipino independent was probably contemporary cinema’s best-kept secret. Until now . His body of work includes  more than 25 films ( with more than 15 features ).

Since his debut  in 1998,  Lav Diaz productions were rarely shown outside  the film-festival circuit. One reason is the length. Some  run over 10 hours, many running over 300 minutes long !  A multi-awarded versatile artist (he is also a poet and musician) Diaz’s  distinctive style is  highly contemplative, with a dash of documentary-style approach and sometimes a heavy dose of experimentation.  His films are deeply-rooted into the Philippines history.

Lav Diaz may be on the verge of a well deserved recognition as one of the most  singular director working today.


1 – The Criminal of Barrio Conception (Serafin Geronimo: Kriminal ng Barrio Concepcion-1998)

Lav Diaz  feature debut is loosely-based on Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.

Seraphin, a poverty-stricken farmhand , takes part in a kidnapping job going bust. He meets a young investigative journalist to tell about the story. His tale is about unsolved crimes that shocked and plagued the country…

The Criminal of Barrio Conception plunges the audience at the heart of criminal activities. It is rugged with obvious  technical deficiencies. Because of budget limitation the director did mostly  one take shots. It would become his trade .  But it is a  bold and visceral story of crime and retribution and an interesting tribute to fellow countryman Lino Brocka’s political crime dramas of the 1970s.


2- Melancholia (Melagholia– 2008)

Three misfits  struggle to make their way through the world. They fear the future and wander the desolate countryside. Their fear leads to  apocalypse as they begin to lose their grip on reality.

The story is divided into three distinct parts followed by an epilogue. The characters shift  personalities as they meet some drifting strangers along the way.

Winner of the Best Film of the Horizons program at the 2008 Venice Film Festival, this is a 7 hours and a half long experimental saga. For the average viewers it can be an endurance test. But if you’re into  these one-of-a-kind experimental film that lingers on the cerebral and spiritual subtext it will certainly appeal to you.

Melancholia is a rewarding and unique movie experience in which Diaz tackles  his own personal and obsessive themes of grief, loss and confusion.


3- Norte, the End of History (Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan– 2013)

Norte chronicles the life of three characters.  One of  them commits a crime. As time passes, they all struggle with their daily life, searching for peace, while confronted to a miscarriage of justice…

Diaz goes  Dostoevsky again with this haunting drama. More universal in its themes, more polished than his earlier films, this is a deeply emotional tale for art-house fans. While he doesn’t shy away from his usual  long-take aesthetic, Diaz offers with Norte more «rhythm» than with  his previous experimental ventures.

Shot in gorgeous Cinemascope, Norte, the End of History, with its vivid colors, is a beautiful visual feast. Clocking in at a  the 4 hour mark, a «short» film for Diaz, it is a true masterpiece of contemporary cinema.


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