From What Is Before Screen 11 articles

From What Is Before


From What Is Before Poster
  • While the historical scope of From What Is Before is huge, its emotional palette is a bit limited. As an avowed Jeanne Dielman fan, I don’t object to prolonged banality, but I confess that Diaz loses points with me for reveling at such length in Joselina’s tortured gesticulations, a mother’s tortured grief, a horrific act of sexual abuse or in the gang of fascists cartoonishly sneering and brandishing their weapons.

  • The film is violent, angry and also visually ravishing, if exhausting.

  • The town, although far from perfect especially with its many tales of suffering and deceit, reflects the very same dilemma that plagues the Philippines. Diaz, by weaving together those tales into a single epic, has summarized a country’s painful history not with facts and dates but with impressions and emotions. Mula Sa Kung Ano Ang Noon is sustained by evocative tableaus of human beings in various degrees of personal, spiritual and political strife.

  • The environment is the main character of the first hour or so—a sense of the synchronicity in people and place is imbued in every scene, every shot, until this relationship becomes disrupted, and the film reveals its true self. Until the film's true cards are finally illuminated, you become lulled by Before's subtle rhythms, the emphasis on nature, rocks, waves, the sounds of the forest. But as layer by layer is peeled back, the dark, aching core of the film takes over.

  • ...There can be no doubt that From What Is Before finds Diaz at the height of his powers... The film marries the specific to the universal in truly masterful fashion, the villagers' collective, inescapable sins finding their savage echo in the bloodthirsty conflict raging around them, kept pointedly out of view until the final image.

  • From the start, the visuals are spectacular. Having deviated into color with Norte, here Diaz returns to his preferred black-and-white, whose low contrast bestows an almost sepia-like quality on the images befitting the historical material and once again proving his unparalleled mastery of digital video. Even the most hardened analog puritans would be hard pressed to find fault with Diaz’s breathtaking tableaux.

  • A striking example of Slow Cinema: over the course of 338 minutes, Diaz creates a narrative in two parts, with the country’s historical cataclysms haunting the events of the first half and culminating in the second. Duration, here, is a tool to contemplate and to let layers emerge.

  • Unfolding over five-and-a-half hours and filmed in his typical long take, carefully modulated style, From What Is Before continues to confirm and refine both Diaz’s classical and transformative sensibilities.

  • In terms of the competition awards winners, a well-deserved Golden Leopard (Pardo d’ore) went to Lav Diaz’s From What Is Before (Mula sa kung ano ang noon), a visually stunning, emotionally arresting, politically pointed five-hour-and-forty-minute exploration of rural life and its decline in early 1970s Philippines.

  • Diaz's mise en scène and temporal strategies must be theorized as weapons in the struggle for the emancipation of his people. Utopic as it may sound, in From What Is Before as in all his other independently-produced works, Diaz has been trying to destroy time as a commodity and as an instrument of control, thus reclaiming Filipino people's ancestral Malay identity.

  • What Diaz is attempting here is a complicated mixture of nostalgia and distance: the black-and-white cinematography delineates an idea of past-ness even as the focus on simple, even banal interactions works against any sense of historical embellishment. The trick is that Diaz doesn’t idealise the modest, agrarian lifestyle on display so much as insist on its authenticity – this is how people lived in the Philippines, not so long ago.

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