‘A Lullaby to a Sorrowful Mystery’ (‘Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis’): Berlin Review

Maverick executive Lav Diaz offers his expressionistic take on a 1896 Philippine Revolution in 8 hours.

The bloody 1896 Philippine Revolution began as a renouned overthrow for emancipation from 300 years of Spanish rule, afterwards incited into a nasty energy onslaught among insubordinate leaders before finale in an nervous truce. This fascinating square of story is not so many recounted as expressively re-imagined in A Lullaby to a Sorrowful Mystery (Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis), by Filipino writer-director Lav Diaz, whose marathon films have done inroads into vital festivals in a final few years. Shot in black and white regulating a squared-off frame, it’s many some-more a visible poem than a swashbuckling tale, again renowned by Diaz’s heading negligence for perplexing a viewer’s calm with immobile prolonged takes and miss of account flow. It showcased in foe during a Berlin Film Festival to a name though elegant audience, notwithstanding a using time that exceeds 8 hours, in what might mangle a record for any vital universe festival.

Though Diaz’s cult repute among a certain form of fest goer ensures a film will be seen and cheered on a impassioned high-brow finish of a circuit, it should be pronounced that it is a step behind in coherency and concentration from his 2014 From What Is Before, that won a Golden Leopard in Locarno. The latter’s sincere politicism (which never hurts in this arrange of unconstrained non-actioner) and complaint of a order of Ferdinand Marcos here becomes a deceptive call to Filipino swell in that leisure from Spain is usually a commencement of a prolonged approved process. All good and good, though widespread over hours of elegant ramblings, a summary loses many of a urgency.

Bordering on unintended folk imitation due to a awkward characters and contrarian story-telling, a film is expected to spin off many some-more than it enchants. The categorical disunion cause is not a lavish length (after all, Bela Tarr’s darkly humorous Satan’s Tango was riveting and usually half an hour shorter.) It is a exasperating lenience and miss of refinement in a editing, for that Diaz takes solitary credit. Not usually does it delayed down a story, though creates it tough to grasp what’s going on. It takes during slightest an hour to theory who a categorical characters are, and a dark, mostly punishing black and white lighting (typically though any convincing source) creates matters all a some-more formidable to decipher.

The screenplay ever-so-slowly develops dual account threads, carried brazen by groups of characters who usually overlie once, though noticing any other. One organisation represents a top classes of Filipino multitude and their opinion toward a revolution. Isgani (John Lloyd Cruz), a well-fed producer always anguishing over what to do, recalls a maudlin favourite of Diaz’s Crime and Punishment adaptation, Norte, a End of History. He has been lead astray, and his life severely damaged, by listening to a shining aristo incendiary Simoun (Piolo Pascual’s devious irony creates him simply a film’s many noted character). Simoun’s dim purpose is to sustain loathing in men’s souls so a mortal series can begin. He succeeds, though after repents. He becomes Isgani’s cranky to bear in a film’s final 4 hours or so, when he is bleeding and needs to be ecstatic opposite half a Philippines, by jungles and over mountains, in a hammock.

The other story that unfolds go to a women of a series who accumulate around Gregoria de Jesus a.k.a. Oryang (Hazel Orencio), mom of a worshiped personality Andres Bonifacio. Andres has been prisoner by another would-be El Supremo, Emilio Aguinaldo, whose intentions are not good. When he vanishes, Oryang becomes dynamic to find him during whatever a cost, along with her supporters Caesaria Belarmino (Alessandra De Rossi), a “celebrated beauty of Silang” who tricked her hometown and caused a massacre, a lamentation mom Aling Hule (Susan Africa), and Karyo, a elementary male with modernized lung illness (Joel Saracho), Together they impetus adult a sorcery towering inhabited by buffoon-ish horse-spirits called Encantos, who are of no assistance to Gregoria, and who aren’t really funny, either. Nor does she find condolence from a Colorum, a weird eremite cult vital in a large cave, led by a groan clergyman (Ronnie Lazaro) who has his possess take on a revolution. If a Encantos are thrown in to illustrate a brilliance of Filipino mythology, a Colorums seem like a diseased puncture during a internal preaching and their stretch from reality.

There is a brilliance here that strains to be channeled into a focused film. With a whole series holding place off camera, it is also a really interiorized film. Diaz has good feeling for a tellurian comedy, where timidity and profanation swap with intrepidity and solidarity. But shortening all to an inconclusive intellectual, a half-mad mom and some cackling evil-doers rather simplifies a tale. 


Production companies: Ten17P, Epicmedia, Sine Olivia Pilipinas

Cast: John Lloyd Cruz, Piolo Pascual, Hazel Orencio, Alessandra De Rossi, Joel Saracho, Susan Africa, Bernardo Bernardo, Cherie Gil, Angel Aquino

Director, screenwriter, editor: Lav Diaz

Producers: Bianca Balbuena, Paul Soriano

Executive producer: Paul Soriano  

Director of photography: Larry Manda

Production designer: Popo Diaz

Costume designer: Jona Ballaran

World sales: Films Boutique  

Venue: Berlin Film Festival (competition)

485 minutes