Norte, the End of History
Over the last decade, the Filipino film industry has quietly been producing some of the most unique movies on the planet. (I urge you to see the ravishing melodrama The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveiros in particular.) One of the highlights of the Philippines’ cinematic output—especially among its semi-experimental, independent vein, which flourished after the waning of the country’s commercial industry—has been the director Lav Diaz, whose films have unfortunately received scant distribution in the US. That changes slightly with Norte, the End of History, Diaz’s four-hour opus inspired by Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. One of the director’s few films shot in color, with a 250-minute running time that’s actually modest by Diaz’s standards (his 2008 film Melancholia lasts nearly eight hours), Norte, the End of History strives to do no less than place a philosophical debate about guilt and free will in the context of modern Philippines’ stratified class system. In other words, it’s as thematically fascinating as it is socially urgent (not to mention visually astonishing), an achievement that embraces the complexity and insight of Dostoevsky while becoming distinctly its own creature.