Article by: Andrea Bagnasco
Translation by: Silvia Cometti, Miriam Todesco
When watching an eight-hour movie, the story starts vanishing in one’s mind, what one remembers of the past gets blurred, preventing him from linking all the points, what one may think about the future becomes little by little unsure and one finds himself lost, tightly attached to the present and to this monumental film by Lav Diaz.
The forest, which surrounds the characters all along the movie, is a container of spirits and hopes which are maybe out of reach, a Dante’s dark forest where everyone lose themselves and their mind in search of something: Gregoria de Jesus is looking for her husband Andres Bonifacio, a historical figure who started the Philippine Revolution against the Spanish oppression (1896-1897); Isagani, an intellectual and a poet, is seeking the courage to come back and fight while the uprisings are brutally suppressed; in the end, a cabal of religious men is searching for the mythological character of Bernardo Carpio.
In this research, everything is on the edge of folly; the narration comes easily for Diaz, who, at the right moment, gives life to the story, and with the same ease takes it away: everything seems still and alive at one time. The frames are full and there are extremely few movements. A film in black and white never gives certainties on reality and beams of light tear the night apart, while in almost every scene the fire is burning.
But this film is mainly aiming to send a political message, a message which Lav Diaz would give to his people: to wake up from numbness, to stop waiting for a better future while being oppressed and exploited, now, as then, by a few, who take advantage, wherever they can, as evil spirits. “Why, uncle?” asks Isagani to his wise uncle, towards the end of this story, why there seems to be no cure to all this?