There have been some mammoth films throughout the course of cinema history. Resan clocks in at 873 minutes whilst How Yukong Moved the Mountains and Out 1 have runtimes of over 700 minutes. Sátántangó, which is screening around the country as part of Scalarama at the moment, racks up a creditable 450 minutes. Director Lav Diaz has past history with several of his film testing the attention span including the epic Melancholia. Norte: The End of History isn’t quite in the same league, but at over four hours it’s still more than a little epic.
Disillusioned with his country, Fabian (Sid Lucero) regularly regales his embattled friends with complaints about his country: The Philippines. Capitalism, religion, corruption, incompetence, he leaves no stone unturned. Joaquin (Archie Alemania) struggles to make ends meet. Living with his wife Eliza (Angeli Bayani) and their children, his dreams seem to have evaporated. Both men are in debt to a moneylender (Mae Paner). When Fabian takes his retribution against her it’s Joaquin who wrongly gets life imprisonment for murder. Whilst Fabian struggles to live with the guilt, Joaquin accepts his fate. At the same time Eliza tries to earn enough to feed their children.
Taking its lead from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Norte doesn’t deal with the horrors of being a victim of murder. Instead it focusses on the perpetrator. Fabian is trying to come to terms with the fact that he’s capable of killing, and has gone unpunished. Despite being wrongfully convicted, Joaquin manages to find inner peace for the first time behind bars. Whilst Diaz’s film requires an investment of time and concentration it in no way drags or feels overlong. Norte: The End of History is a remarkable achievement and compelling cinema.
Norte: The End of History is released on DVD and Blu-ray by New Wave Films on September 29.