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Norte, the End of History (2013)
IMDB Rating: 7.4/10 from votes
Release: 11 March 2014 (Philippines) /

Norte, the End of History (2013)

Genre: Drama
Director: Rody Vera,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: An embittered law student commits a brutal double murder; a family man takes the fall and is forced into a harsh prison sentence; a mother and her two children wander the countryside looking for some kind of redemption.

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Critic Reviews

Finally! Today, I can now say that I have seen a Lav Diaz film. Since his multi-awarded "Batang West Side" in 2001, Mr. Diaz has built a name directing artistic opuses that run much much longer than usual feature films, usually more than five hours. His longest was "Evolution of a Filipino Family" in 2004, which clocked at a whopping 11 and a half hours! Running for about 4 hours, "Norte" is fondly referred to as Mr. Diaz's "short" film, and therefore the most accessible of all his films.

"Norte" is set in the northern province of Ilocos Norte. Fabian Viduya (Sid Lucero) was a topnotch law student who quit law school because of his highfalutin philosophical ideas of a society beyond existentialism and anarchy. Joaquin (Archie Alemania) and Eliza (Agnes Bayani) were a poor couple whose dreams of building their own eatery business are dashed when Joaquin suffers a leg injury and they fell deep into debt.

The fates of these three people intersected when a heinous crime was committed in their small town. Since then, these three lives were thrown into a major maelstrom. These events happened in just in the first hour, the rest of the next three hours follows what happens to each of these three characters following that cruelly fateful day.

I will not pretend and say that I did not feel the four hours. I did feel the length of the film with those static shots that seemed to be showing nothing in particular or the very slow telling of events with several details that seemed like they would have been edited out in usual film. However, each of these scenes would usually precede a scene of big importance, building up the suspense very effectively.

If we complain that there is no character development in mainstream film, in this film, there is not shortage of that. We will get to see how the events shaped Fabian, Joaquin and Eliza as they were caught in their consequences. However, for a super-complex character like Fabian, the four hours was not even enough to get to know his innermost core that drove him to do the things he did. Fabian is a big question mark up to his very last scene.

Sid Lucero got wrung through the wringer for his role as Fabian. You'll admire him. You'll pity him. You'll hate him. This is such a complex role and Lucero was more than up to the task. "Norte" is his film. It was his actions that throw the other characters' lives around.

Angeli Bayani has taken over roles that would probably been given to younger Ms. Nora Aunor. Even if her character barely talked, it was her eyes, her face that talked to us. Her scenes with Archie Alemania are tearjerkers without words nor music to build up the moment. Her back was even turned to us. Yet the emotion was so deeply felt. There was also that scene where she was walking with her kids at the crossroads, and following that, a scene with her kids over a ledge -- she can really convey tension that her director requires.

Archie Alemania's character development was rather straight-forward and he played the character very sympathetically. Mae Paner was the usurer Magda, such a hateful character you will feel her effect even if she was only seen in the first hour. Soliman Cruz was another hateful character Wakwak seen in the third hour. That scene where he was singing "O Holy Night" was so insidiously sinister.

This film is not for everyone. Not everyone will have the patience for it. Not everyone will have the time for it. However, for those who do invest their time with this, you will see that this was a film of artistic excellence. The innovative camera angles make mundane household items and rustic scenes look and feel different. This could be your best chance to watch a Lav Diaz film and immerse yourself in the work of a director whose name is already lined up with National Artists for film Brocka and Bernal.

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