Friday, November 10, 2006

Heremias (Lav Diaz, 2006)

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Heremias (Lav Diaz, 2006) article available only until Thursday next week

Excerpt:

Lav Diaz's "Heremias" (2006) is 540 minutes long, an hour shy of the length of "Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino" ("Evolution of a Filipino Family, 2004), presently the record holder of the title "longest single Filipino feature"--but then this picture is only part one, titled, or so I'm told, "Book 1: The Legend of the Lizard Princess." "Ebolusyon" spanned a broad canvas, featuring not just the story of two families (rice farmers in Tarlac, wood gatherers aspiring to become gold miners in the Benguet Province), but the recent history of the Philippines, as represented in a series of documentary footage, from Marcos' declaration of martial law in 1972 to the EDSA Revolt in 1986 to the massacre of the farmers on Mendiola Bridge in 1987; along the way Diaz stuffed the film full of all kinds of conceits, from film critic Gino Dormiendo playing Lino Brocka in a series of televised interviews to a plot to assassinate Brocka (?!) to a series of hilariously melodramatic radio broadcasts that the families listen to religiously, as if they were Sunday Mass. "Heremias" is radically different--it's the odyssey of one man (Ronnie Lazaro) from his village to the city and back; more, it's his journey from a state of absolute innocence to knowledge, disillusionment, guilt.

Diaz had told me once that he was interested in making a film about these people--traveling peasants who pile their covered wagons high with bits of handicrafts (rocking chairs, brooms, baby walkers, and so forth), make their painfully slow way into town, and sell their wares for remarkably low prices (you wonder: if their products are so cheap, how much did these people spend acquiring--or making--them?); here is the film he talked about, in all its implacable glory. For a time we see nothing but Heremias and his wagon, pulled by a carabao (we get to know that carabao quite well), rolling from one end of the screen to another; the road--dirt as often as asphalt, stretching past houses and hills and trees--often forms a diagonal on which the small figure and his wheeled vehicle ambles (slowly, slowly) along. At one point a typhoon rages while the wagon goes down a forest path--diagonally situated, as usual, this time from right to lower left--and we wait for the wagon to reach the path's nearer end before Diaz cuts, as he's done so often before. Suddenly a sapling falls across the way; the path is blocked; the slow and steady motion we have come to expect from so many hours' variation on this particular composition cannot be completed--cannot be fulfilled, if you will. We watch in mounting frustration as Heremias gets off the wagon, chops the sapling up, pushes it out of the way; eventually, he manages to clear the path and move the wagon forward, reaching the lower left corner of the screen; you're almost thrilled at the accomplishment.

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13 comments:

Toto said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Toto said...

I left some comments in your previous post about Majayjay, Laguna(in case you missed it.)
Lav and I were together during Ricky Lee's second Screenwriting Workshop in the early 80s. Do you know where I could reach him? Thanks.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Oggs Cruz said...

Noel, I suggest you put some safeguards in your comments section to avoid bots from posting useless stuff as in the above comment...

Happened in my blog, I couldn't quite figure out how to remove those useless comments.

Noel Vera said...

Thanks oggs. enabled the word verification. Hate that thing, didn't want to put it in until I got something. Guess it took, oh, a few weeks before someone sent me something.

Noel Vera said...

Hi, toto.

No at the moment I have no way of contacting Lav. If you can send me your email address at noelbotevera@yahoo.com, I can ask around.

Toto said...

Thanks Noel. I'll send you my email.
Re. Other post, I can bring you to all the locations used in the three films (Pagputi ng Uwak, Pagputi ng Tagak, Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos and Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon ) when I get home. Hehehe. I'll try to get reaquainted with these locations when TFC screens these films this month.
BTW, are these films available on DVD? Do you know if other films like Misteryo sa Tuwa, Soltero, Salawahan, Nympha, Pagdating sa Dulo, Villa Miranda, Santiago, Daigdig ng mga Api, The Moises Padilla Story, etc. are also available on DVD?

Noel Vera said...

Most of those films might have a print, no DVD; Moises Padilla there's a print, not in good condition; Daigdig is GONE, gone, gone...

Tatlong Taong--say your prayers; there might be a DVD out next year...

If I ever get the chance to swing by Laguna again, I'll look you up.

Ronald said...

Nice and excellent review of HEREMIAS, Noel, keep it up! Its the most visually appealing of all Lav Diaz films although I still prefer BATANG WEST SIDE, probably because it was shot in color.

But those black and white shots in HEREMIAS are all dazzling to behold! Can't wait to see the Part two.

Toto said...

Thanks, Noel.
I remember seeing a restored copy of The Moises Padilla Story at the Manila Film Center sometime in the 80s. Is it gone too? The state of film preservation in the Philipines is really pathetic. Are they not doing anything about it?

Noel Vera said...

Ron, I wished they did Batang West Side in black and white; it would have complemented the feeling of loneliness so well.

Batang West Side is my favorite not because it's in color but because it feels best developed of his three superlong scripts; you can see what's at stake, and you feel for the various charactes (I love Ebolusyon, but not really for the characters--Reynaold, for one, is a perambulating cypher; Heremias, well, we need to see part 2 to decide).

Toto, Moises was lost after the '80s and found again, in probably worse condition (the climactic scene of Padilla's torture has been left out, apparently). It's still there, tho and still great. I don't know about a DVD. And yes, it's pathetic.

Ronald said...

Yeah agree with you about Batang West Side if it was shot in black and white. And yes, there's so much empathy for the characters in Batang West Side.

Noel Vera said...

It's a nice balance of empathy and distance. I think Lav went a bit too much over to distance in Ebolusyon and especially Heremias part 1 (which doesn't make them bad films; if we don't go too far, how can we get anywhere new?).

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