Friday, November 23, 2007

A Memoir to Suffering

There remains but one film to celebrate, among the greatest in Venice, and certainly the longest at nine-plus hours: Lav Diaz's monumental memoir to suffering, Death in the Land of Encantos, a modern mosaic cobbled together from the modest of means. In 2006, a typhoon devastated the region of the Philippines where Diaz shot much of his last two works--so the filmmaker went back and began filming, although with no clear game plan. Eventually he developed a narrative about a generation broken by their country's seemingly inescapable corruption: an assortment of the living dead wandering a landscape filled with the grief-stricken. Diaz's protagonist is yet another of the festival's schizophrenics, and manic-depressive in the bargain.

As in his 2005 Evolution of a Filipino Family, the filmmaker creates a massive tapestry, here incorporating documentary footage of typhoon survivors speaking out about government's neglect of their plight, as well as fragments from an unfinished short horror film shot in Zagreb in 2003. The latter concerns a lost tribe of Aswangs--ghouls of popular Philippine folklore--who have found a home in southeastern Europe. Little if anything at the Lido was as emotionally exhausting and exhaustive, as rich an experience and as crushing as Diaz's film.
-- Olaf Moller, Film Comment Magazine
November-December 2007

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