It sounds absurd to entertain the idea of rewatching a film that supposedly requires as much stamina as this, but I feel that when the day comes to take another punt at what very well be Lav Diaz’s most ‘complete’ film, I’ll find myself enjoying it even more.
He’s essentially offering just another film about a truth many other filmmakers have already proven time and again: life is hard – but his stunning camerawork often elevates this concept to another level entirely, introducing light as a fixture to permeate the shadows rather than the other way around, just as the centerpiece sequences in this film utilize camera movement (a rare technique for a Diaz film) to highlight things that don’t matter, consistently redirecting our attention and manipulating our viewing experience for no reason other than the fact that he wants to. Artifice and the barrier of the screen impede our ability as an audience to ever see clearly and Diaz takes full advantage of this, redirecting the purpose of his film multiple times, hence proving the point that to actively and willingly engage in the viewing and experience of a film is to submit entirely and allow the artist to hold power over you, to become dominant.
The best artists – the artists like Lav Diaz – use this power to force their artworks to become one with our lives, inform our personal decisions – they use this power to make us understand.
Josiah Morgan is on Letterboxd.