Norte, the End of History Screen 25 articles

Norte, the End of History

2013

Norte, the End of History Poster
  • Felt unpalatably Dumont-ish to me long before somebody levitated in the fourth (freakin') hour. (Ironically, the first 40 minutes, which initially prompted a W/O at Cannes, are now my favorite section of the movie.) Obviously, there are dramatic differences—Dumont goes another route with the self-loathing intellectual bit—but Norte indulges (and indulges) a similarly brutish/facile view of human nature, expressed via a similar visual/aural mastery (shot by shot, anyway).

  • The humble, Sophoclean assumption that depicting atrocities—in image or sound—on-stage only shows their artifice rather than reality is not one that occurs to filmmakers of Diaz's and McQueen's purpose... And so we're stuck in the familiar arthouse territory of shame-faced spectacle, pioneered by Haneke: it would be impossible to find more tasteful rapes, more tasteful murders, and more meditative carnage outside the canons of such festival luminaries.

  • As the years pass and the Diaz ‘formula’ hardens, it becomes more difficult to excuse the lack of inventiveness and craft in his work in the name of some spurious ‘neo-neorealism’. Diaz’s most vocal fans do him no favours in this regard: he might become a better, more self-critical director if people stopped reassuring him that every new film he makes is a deathless masterpiece.

  • Diaz is a formidable talent, eliciting flawlessly naturalistic performances and exhibiting casual visual panache. At 250 minutes, Norte is extremely watchable, and there’s the rub: it’s reasonable to expect transcendence at that sustained length, but instead we get a relatively straightforward tract on political abuses, Christian dogma and social inequity in Filipino society.

  • The very aspects of Norte that are helping it to connect with a broader audience are being utilized with great formal acumen, giving one the sense that Diaz withheld certain maneuvers until he felt he had some reason to deploy them. And in fact, one still observes a great many static shots and tableaux in the film, reminders of Diaz’s more painterly work in the previous black-and-white works.

  • A 250-minute running time necessarily demands patience from an audience, but no less important is the patience of the filmmaker demanding it. This remains a specialty of Diaz's: Interested less in a few major events than in the ongoing banality which surrounds them, he trains his camera on the quiet rhythms of unglamorous routine, lingering on his characters as they wearily go through the motions of another day.

  • Diaz’s deep-focus compositions are in rich, vivid color on this occasion (as opposed to his customary black and white); at times a vertiginous “heli-cam” floats above the action, suggesting by turns the fitful perspective of a dreamer and the troubled omniscience of an all-seeing eye.

  • ...Mr. Diaz doesn’t just tell a story about two men, he also shows you the world in which such stories and men emerge. He takes his time (and yours) to move in and around spaces rather than skipping through them, to accumulate details and play with ordinary daily rhythms. At once lifelike and a scrupulous imitation of life, the movie turns time into a bridge that allows you to cross into the lives of others.

  • While Diaz is renowned as an exponent of “slow cinema”, the plot actually moves at a rather brisk pace, as the filmmaker follows both characters in their respective descents into the abyss, and in terms of its narrative scope and thematic grandeur, Norte comes close to truly attaining a novelistic quality, worthy of the authors to whom Diaz looks for inspiration.

  • They took their seats, the lights went down, the movie came up, and I sat there. Two-hundred-fifty minutes later, the lights came up, I stood with tears in my eyes, and clapped as loudly as I ever have for any movie in my life... The force compelling us all to stay was the audacity of Diaz's filmmaking. His scenes go on, though not for the sake of their longevity... They're not long takes so much as deep breaths.

  • It’s a mesmerising experience that grows deeper and broader the longer it goes on, completely justifying its duration. It seems to be pitched in a completely different key to the other films I’ve seen in Cannes this year, with its own rhythm and rules, a different mode of address to the viewer, the ambition to reach for – and attain – a metaphysical dimension.

  • The patience of the separated couple is the sublime patience of the film itself; patience is above all the greatest virtue in the film, patience to let scenes unfold at their own time, conversations to start and stop at their own pace, for people to move and feel in real time.

  • In this technique [using voiceover], I believe, lies an honest exposure of [Diaz's] method, the method of the only working filmmaker to explore such fundamental categories of the human condition as Truth, Kindness, Morality, Sin, Justice, Nation, History, and God. (All capitalized, contrary to the prevalent ironies of the 2000s). Always solemn but never turgid, Diaz juxtaposes the intellectual and the common man in Norte with peerless elegance...

  • With Norte Diaz has come full circle, from borrowing elements of the character of Raskolnikov for The Criminal of Barrio Concepcion to adapting the novel directly (although how directly isn’t easy to answer, actually). The new film feels like a capstone, a summation of everything Diaz loves about and finds so profound in Dostoevsky, a transmutation of the writer’s melodramatic genius into grist for his more distanced, more emotionally chilled films.

  • The mise-en-scene has intimations of ’50s melodrama but there is no music. As a filmmaker, Diaz suggests a naturalized Fassbinder. “Norte” is a movie of long ensemble takes and precise camera placement. It’s a movie of ideas, many of which are embodied in the individual set-ups or settings. (The use of landscape is akin to that in early Jia Zhangke.)

  • Unlike other examples of “slow cinema” (a designation as worthy of retirement as “vulgar auteurism”), Norte’s leisurely running time isn’t an attempt to probe cinema’s durational qualities. Rather, Diaz accrues moment after moment in the lives of his characters because of a classical interest in detailed, layered narrative, which aligns his films more with Dickens and Tolstoy than any of his cinema contemporaries.

  • Diaz's formal mastery in Norte—expressed in painterly wide shots that break up the visual world into two, three, sometimes four distinct planes—and its patient respect for human behavior, its unhurried development of plot at the service of giving every discrete action its worthy attention, inspires a delicate balance between awe at the technical brilliance on display and rapt attention to the humans and environments comprised within.

  • To attempt to seriously braid the political, the psychological, and the spiritual in a single narrative system! Who besides Ford, Mizoguchi, Dreyer, and Rossellini have successfully tried? (And not even their best attempts were flawless.) Norte is a work that deserves consideration in the same terms and contexts as the work of these masters.

  • Novelistic is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days, but Diaz’s film more than earns the adjective, and you’d have to go back to Edward Yang’s Yi-Yi to find a movie that approaches marathon-length running times yet still makes you wish it were twice as long.

  • In Lav Diaz’s Norte, hangganan ng kasaysayan (Norte, the End of History), a 250-minute musing upon the reality of transgression and the perception of transformation, an old adage springs to cinematic life, its accepted platitudes seemingly proven: The more things change for the film’s pair of Filipino protagonists – intellectual Fabian (Sid Lucero) and villager Joaquin (Archie Alemania) – the more the surrounding society stays the same, despite their best and worst efforts.

  • Norte, the End of History, by Lav Diaz, is an equally complicated brew of traditions. In this case, modern cinema of duration meets the 19th-century novel. Through long takes, Diaz alternates between slums, prisons, and country mansions, capturing a varied social tableaux... [Norte was] among the best that played at BAFICI...

  • Norte doesn’t feel long in the least: with its narrative economy, clarity, and gently purposeful forward drive, the film is as streamlined and as watchable as any contemporary mainstream narrative, if not more so. At the risk of repeating a weary truism about the relativity of film time, Norte feels a lot shorter than the arduous grind of many an artificially busy Hollywood production.

  • Norte is both a radical departure for Diaz and a perfect gateway into the director’s work. For one, it’s conventionally handsome; though much of his output from the past decade was produced on noisy consumer-grade video and desaturated into black and white, the crisp-looking Norte finds him working in color for the first time since 2002’s shoestring sci-fi flick Hesus The Revolutionary.

  • It’s not so much that the director is swinging for the fences of film history as he’s collapsing the distance between his own film culture — which is still primarily regarded as exotic by Western programmers and festival gatekeepers — and the rest of cinema — even as at the same time Norte stands apart by dint of its length and general severity.

  • The temptation is to call [Diaz's] shots simple, or austere, but they're actually quite complex and ambitious. Yes, he avoids extraneous camera movements (though he's not above a careful dolly shot or pan), but he composes with the skill of a great painter, playing his foregrounds and backgrounds off one another in ways that draw us into his lush frames. Diaz creates entire worlds within these lengthy static shots, and you can lose yourself in Norte's impeccably filmed landscapes and interiors.

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