DEATH IN THE LAND OF MELANCHOLIA : A COMMON PEOLPLE EPIC OF LAV DIAZ

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WIWAT LERTWIWATWONGSA
TRANSLATED BY WASSACHOL SIRICHANTHANUN

There was a farmer family that ended their lives by scattering hopelessly without knowing where the roads will lead them on. There was a suffered person who lost everything to a corruption system that ate away the whole society. Don’t even think about helping a girl out because he can’t even prevent himself from dying. There was also a poet who came back in search for his lover’s body under the mud after the storm wiped away the town gradually lost his soul. And there was a woman who found out that being a prostitute didn’t redeem the remorse of losing her husband to a political turmoil years ago.

They are the protagonists of Lav Diaz-from farmers in faraway lands to a high school headmaster in Manila and from tradesman caravan to a group of artist in a little town near a volcano. These people carried their own sins everywhere just to find a way to redeem their certain ones. But the farer they traveled, the more hopeless the redemption would occur. The only thing that was waiting for them was a disaster. For Diaz, this is a representation of Philippines’ commoners whose land was colonized by Spain for a long time. After the declaration of dependence, America took over pulling the strings behind one of the cruelest ruler of the world, Ferdinand Marcos. Even the people had uprose against the martial law and succeeded in driving him out of the power, the mist of dark shadows still overspread the country leaving the notch which was unhealed.

Lav himself was one of the fruits of Marcos’ martial law regime. (Marcos declared the martial law in 1973 to prolong his reign after being a president for two terms, which is the maximum duration due to the constitution. The law was put in action for 13 years and it was said that he killed at least 50,000 opponents at the time.*1) He was born in a farmer village in Mindanao. His family members were farmer and teachers. His father who worshiped Russian literature had passed the path of art to him. Even they were poor but they still rode a bus for two hours to see a double-billed movies in the city every weekend. Diaz was brought up during the hard time of martial law when soldiers could freely kill people. When he was in high school, he was once slapped in the face by the soldiers’ rifle butt when they invaded the village. He was forced to attend a camp where they kept youngsters together in a huge room surrounded by huge posters of Marcos and was also forced to listen to his speech all day all night. During those moments, he found the magic of cinema through one of the most important Filipino directors Lino Brocka’s social-concerned films. Later on, these two things (martial law regime and Brocka) heavily influenced him on his perspective on a tough homeland as well as his vision on the aesthetic of cinema.

Lav started his carreer as a journalist. He wrote news scoops and short stories before he won a prize from scriptwriting, which gave him a chance to attend a filmmaking workshop by Mowelfund Film Institute in Manila. He started his film career by making narrative films for a studio and writing TV drama scripts before moving to New York in 1992 and worked as an underground artist gaining recognition from his documentary about a group of young boys living in the street. During that time, he was gradually breaking from the old concept of cinema by starting to shoot a film with more length than the average. He also started using a digital camera because digital technology for him can save the production cost as well as served his purpose of shooting a very long scene (some scenes are one hour long) in one shot without the need to stop for changing a film roll. We could say that this technology has a lot of impact on his cinema aesthetic.

His first film of the era is Batang West Side (2001). The film, which is 5 hours long, tells the story of Pinoy youngsters’ death in the street of New Jersey representing the state of Philippines at the time. Mijarez was the cop who was in charge of the case. His investigation brought him closer to the truth but at the end the case could never be solved and he still couldn’t find the murderer. “If I keep working on this case, I might have to kill more Filipino for sure,” said Mijarez in the last scene clarifying that we are all responsible for the crime. We are all involving in the crime.

In this article, we are focusing on his four works including Evolution of Filipino Family, Heremias Book 1, Death in the Land of Encantos and Melancholia. These are the films that gained him a reputation as one of the most radical film directors of the time.
Evolution of Fillipino Family

Hilda found an abandoned baby in a midden being bitten by a lot of ants while she was wandering absentmindedly through the street of Manila. Despite of the fact that she was mentally crippled, she decided to raise the baby and called him Raynaldo.

The whole village knew that Hilda was crazy. Precisely speaking, one person in each generation of her family always happened to be like her. Even the villagers called her family a ‘Crazy Family,’ they didn’t leave. They had lived there before she was born and continued living after she had gone. She always took Raynaldo to the beach. Mother and son watched the clear blue sky together. But in some bad days, she took him to the cliff telling him to spread the wings as they were going to fly away. If her brother Kadyo wasn’t there to stop her, she and the child might fall down and crashed into the sea. One day, her brother stole the army’s gun and gave it to the activists in the woods. The soldiers attacked the village and brutally killed the people. Hilda ran off to the beach and bumped into a gang that later raped and killed her. Hilda’s mother who had always despised her daughter couldn’t do anything but cried. Kadyo was beaten until he became permanently disabled and was thrown into a packed and dirty jail. Left alone the grandmother and her three grandchildren in the village, Raynaldo was totally lost and happened to wander alone into the wild wide world.

Many years had passed, Kadyo’s family were still living in hard times. The grandmother and the three girls became employed farmers who have to travel by a cart to harvest in faraway lands. The grandmother was worried about her grandchildren’s education and planned to send her second granddaughter to work as a maid in town so she could go to school while all the granddaughters still wanted to be a farmer. Kadyo spent so many years in jail struggling with other political prisoners. After he was released, he came back home and realized that it had become the forbidden place for him forever so he dragged his broken legs across the town searching for his nephew. After the death of his mother, Raynaldo took a revenge from the gang and was adopted by the lumberjack family. The family consisted of the father, the blind mother and two brother which one of them was mute. They made a living in poverty by working as woodcutters. One day, the father accidentally heard about the Marcos’s gold so he took his three sons to an abandoned gold mine risking their lives with the gangster who owned the place, hoping to find some money for the mother’s treatment.

The above paragraphs are only tiny fragments of this epic film, which is 11 hours long. The length might frighten the audiences leading to their denial of the film, but what’s more arousing is that it took him 11 years to finish! To tell this epic story, he sewn together the footages from 16 mm camera, video camera, news database and digital camera. But this epic is not a story of a king or a national hero. It is just an epic of a simple farmer family, which was collapsed, recovered and endeavored unceasingly and hopelessly through 16 years under the dark shadow of Ferdinand Marcos’s martial law. The era had spread its wings over the archipelago of Philippines. The film tells the story of a farmer family in a small village that is similar to where Lav Diaz grew up with. It is the village that falls under the spell of radio plays that narrate the same kind of story every afternoon for more than a decade, the village with a rough terrain of rice fields and the village that is full of suffering villagers who are quietly struggling through the days of dark age.

We can assume that this film is the key to the rest of his works. Evolution of Filipino Family takes us for a tour to farmer’s personal history and this portrayal comes alongside the found footages from the real history, from the declaration of martial law to the crucial EDSA protest, but without the causative presentation. They are just farmers from faraway land who have nothing to do with the protest in Manila, but politics can always effect the people in a very unpredictable way. On one hand historical footages can act like a marker of time, on the other hand it proves that no one can ever escape from the haze of politics.

However, the personal history in terms of ‘Evolution’ in this film isn’t presented chronologically like the pattern of the grand history. It may start with the present image of the three daughters of the farmer family Hulina, Anna and Martina and their long journey to go farming, then it takes us back to a long roam of Hilda during the night. The images were cut across like bubbles of memories bobbing up. It is the way the commoners access and perceive their own history.

Maybe they were trapped. We always watched them being in the trick of drudgery laboring endlessly on a rice field. Furthermore, the three sons and their father were also trapped in the deserted gold mine. Both scenes are walking beside each other expecting for the better tomorrow. The grandmother dreamed for a better life of her granddaughters enough to send one of them off to the town while the rest of them had to stay there farming to pay their sister’s educational fee. The father, too, dreamed that he could get enough gold to cure his wife’s eyes.

Apart from that, it seems like they all were truly trapped in ‘A Brilliant Hope’ that came to them in the form of radio play. We see the stunning images of the village during the air time of the play. Everyone left their works sitting in the house and gathering in the space under the house listening to the story about a daughter who was molested by her stepfather and thrown out of the house by her mother. A decade had passed, the radio play changed its name but still told them the same old story of the dramatic fantasy, the fantasy that even the dumb wanted to hear, the fantasy that Marcos had drawn to lure the people in for years. (Marcos himself became a president by drawing this fantasy through his autobiography film as a propaganda. The film was famous enough to help him won the vote.) Diaz went further as he betrayed this brilliant hope by inserting the scene in which the ventriloquists were doing their job. Behind the scene, we see a group of aged people took parts in different characters from a little girl, a mother, a stepfather to a real narrator. It was just a show that lure them in. Furthermore, in another scene that a villager was listening to a radio interview imagining that it was an interview of a film star. The film cut to the real interview, which we would find out later that it was an interview of Lino Brocka talking about the duty of the film toward society and politics. We see our protagonist saw one thing while imagining another. When she realized that he was not the film star, she turned off the radio.

If farming and gold digging were nothing but a quagmire of works, then it was interesting that both works are intertwined with land. They are the works of digging for wealth in the land in which they had never owned. The three sisters had to ride a cart to somewhere faraway to work as a farmer on the land of others. More than that, the three guys also worked by burrow themselves into the tunnel which was possessed by an inhuman mafia. This is a model of the relationship between the babbling fantasy of an invisible hand and unwanted citizens who are the genuine owner of the country who had never gained anything from their lands, had been ruled to work hard and had been demolished to death. All the same, the remaining ones are ruled to keep living.

At the same time, if the characters of the film represent Filipino citizens, people like Kadyo and Raynaldo are obviously not the representative of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ but people who were exiled from their homeland or exiled themselves out of it. Exile is definitely the heart of all Diaz’s films.

In case of Raynaldo, he was the spirit of Filipino in terms of being an orphan who was raised by hysterical mother. (Mad or dead woman often represents the land of Philippines, which we will cover later on.) He individually took a revenge on the villagers who killed his mother, then took off as a self-exile while carrying his own sin. In that dream, he was a lost soul that followed the monument in the market, which later became alive. While the monument was representing the national hero who was supposed to be imitated, the monument in Raynaldo’s dream on the contrary led him to darkness! (Plus, the fact that Raynaldo and Huling owned the voiceover of the film would reveal that Diaz had given the duty of narrating the story to the adolescences who are the soul of the Philippines, the young souls that are still tied to the land with poverty and roam aimlessly while being on exile.)

Unlike Raynaldo, Kadyo played a different but major role in most of Diaz’s following films, which is the role of a guy who exile himself due to political problems. At first he was just an ordinary villager until he stole the guns from the army (we don’t even know whether he did it because of poverty, impetuousness or only as a political act) which made the army attacked the village, permanently crippled him and put him in jail. He became a traitor of the village and could never go back forever. He exiled because of the sin he committed by involving in politics. He was destined to be a precursor of the major characters in the other films of Diaz. The scene that Kadyo was dying was shot in a very long and chronic take. He was stabbed and wailed with pain along the way for twenty minutes without a cut. After his death, the body was dragged into a room which was packed with hundreds dead bodies, the bodies of those who disappeared into the hole of history not knowing if they were unnamed heroes or commoners. While we are looking back at the big picture, we can find out that this family represents nothing but a destruction of a family which political history cannot cure. This is the family whose grandmother died in the farm (when she looked at the picture recalling her own personal history, to be precise), father died in the city, aunt was raped and killed while the rest dispersed and disappeared forever.

What is more interesting in the film is the remnant of historical footages from significant events including the declaration of Marcos’ martial law, the assasination of Ninoy Aquino and the EDSA protest (which was bounded with Huling’s long journey, Kadyo’s walk to death and Raynaldo’s night stroll toward the monument), the Malakanyang speech and the inaugural ceremony of Corazon Aquino. These historical footages on one hand are markers on the timeline of the story, but on the other hand they didn’t carry the truth that held up the power of the people against dictatorship. In a way, they even served the same job and as radio drama. The real revolution took place a great distance away from the lives of the farmers. Sometimes it flowed through the radio waves as the gold digger Fernando’s family were killing time by listening to the breaking news while waiting for a new episode of radio drama.

They had never directly involved in any revolution, any protest or any death, but the invisible hand of politics still reached them. It’s severely obvious in case of Fernando’s family, they was listening to the news about Marcos on the radio while what they encountered in the gold mine (the news about Marcos’ gold made him think that gold was better than money) was acting as the model of corruption system that was eating away the society. Huling’s family, too, was nothing close to politics until the resistant group and the army came into the village and drove Kadyo into political crime leading to the consequence that went far beyond compromising. After Kadyo was released, he was hired to beat Lino Brocka and was sent to death after stopping by at the protest. So easily speaking, they can only find justice in the name of death, which might be the only justice that truly exists.
Heremias Book 1

Literally, we can say that Lav’s films used a technique of literature. Starting with an extreme long take of wide landscape that hypnotize them from their seats to roads, forests and fields, following by the characters who slowly appear. Their behaviour and action that pushed the story forward were closely observed. Then they left the scene, left us audiences speechlessly watching an empty landscape without a person. We don’t only observe the screen, we observe the landscape like we did before the characters came in and still go on observing after they left. In cinematic approach, it seems like he treated the screen as a canvas, still exists even there’s no one there. The characters are only a small agent passing by. Isn’t this the old-school technique a writer always uses to meticulously describe the scene?

Looking at Lav’s filmography, we should say that Heremias Book 1 is the film that carries the element of social realism literature most obviously. The film is about Heremias, a sorrowful man who traveled with a caravan selling the wickerwork. They helped and guarded each other and stayed away from travelling through big cities to avoid robbery. But the more he traveled, the more he suffered. He lost interest in trading and making relationship with people. In the end, he asked the chief to break out from the caravan. Despite the worries of the friends, he separated his cart and and started travelling alone.

In the time of solitude, his cart brought him to a little town,which was covered by the gloomy history from the time the Japanese invaded the country. He stopped at an abandoned building waiting for the rain to pass by. He met a stranger who appeared to be a ghost and three guys who gave him a drink that made him drunk and fell asleep. Later he woke up to find that his cow was stolen and his cart was burnt.

Under the full anxiety, Heremias asked the police for help but the investigation hardly progress. The police asked him to pay fifty thousands peso as a bribe to finish it all. But Heremias had no money, so all he could do is taking the trip back and hiding in the forest waiting for the criminals to come back to the crime scene, as his friends said they always did.

Instead of the criminals, he met the teen gang who were planning to kidnap, rape and kill a girl. He knew the entire plan so he went back to the police and asked him for help but the police ignored because the gang was children of the elite in this town. With no way out, hopeless Heremias prayed to the god to sacrifice himself for the girl and promised to walk without eating for forty days if she was saved.

This is the least political film comparing to the other films of Lav. The history doesn’t dominate the story like in Evolution of the Filipino Family and doesn’t involve political activist characters like in Death in the Land of Encantos and Melancholia. But in this film, politics shapes itself into a model of corrupted society. The tragedy that happened to Heremias isn’t just a physical thing like losing his cow but it’s something deep inside his ethical mind with a very deep pain. He found out that he couldn’t help other people or even himself. In this corrupted society, even morality can bring up to calamity.

The film is 9 hours long, which is quite a standard length of Lav’s films. It was his kind of aesthetics in cinema like we’ve previously said. Lav turned his films into a canvas; he sketched the scene up and let the characters enter the scene. Sometimes the characters are already in the scene, but we just cannot see or capture them at the first glance. It’s like the characters were compressed into a tiny particle swallowing by the forest, the river or the debris of things. We can notice them only when they started moving. In Lav’s universe, the characters don’t hold the best priority. The diegetic world might follow them but they are still only one of the elements such as scenery or the length of staring. Lav created the way of time perception in cinema. He once said in the interview that in the way of life of Malay people (which means the whole ethnic of Malaysian, Indonesian and Filipino), they previously have no concept of time. They live their slow life with the activities which are not limited by time but by weather. They can spend their whole day waiting for the rain or the sun (because there’s no need to rush into the assembly line). We can easily say that there is no time in the old Malay world, but their life is limited by space as agricultural people. The concept of time was raised by the colonialism. It’s the concept that forces people to work from morning to evening then come back home and rest and forces cinema to own only 2-3 hours so the audience will have time to finish the next tasks. Lav said that his films are in a way against the idea, not by intention but inatention. After the 5 hours of Batang West Side, he never went back, contemplated and surrendered to the concept of time anymore. He let the film take time as long as he wished and pay more attention to the process of observing the scene. And when the technology of digital cinema came along as the support, the role of length was then started to fade away.

In Heremias, Lav shot a scene with teen gangsters who got drunk in an abandoned house for an hour without a cut. This scene was not made to tell stories, make a conflict or show off the film technique (Lav didn’t do anything but left the camera still), but it was meant to subvert the concept of time like we discussed before. In those long-takes, the audience (who was there before the characters) will got a chance to closely observe the characters’ behaviour (who most of the time appear alone.) We can say that most of Lav’s films only have two kinds of scenes: the long-take scenes in which a character was left alone and the shorter scenes in which the characters had a conversation. The stories were told by this dialogue not a real action. We couldn’t see what really happened by our own eyes even the film was 11 hours long. In the solitude scenes, we see a character wandering alone, sit silently staring at the rain or waking up after a nightmare. These kind of scenes contain no stories but the real message via the conversation; the unimportant events constitute themselves to form what human really are. We know what people are like not from what they said but from the way they stare at the rain. Human contains many little fragments and unspeakable languages. To observe those fragments makes us able to outline the real human from the characters.

Back to the still and dangerous world of Heremias, we would see that this world is full of stories and their power. Heremias was speechless through the whole film while the other people always had stories to narrate. When he first arrived Barrio Hapon, this town was flooded by the stories. From a story of Japanese general who died in this town, a story of an abandoned house which Heremias used as a shelter, a story of the suspected that the police investigated, a story of the police an his father to a story of the gangster and their abduction plan. Everybody had their own stories and use them as armour to protect him or herself, to uphold their power, to put guilt on others (you were here at the wrong place), to distort the inquiry and to threaten people.

Because of this, the corrupted society in the tiny town full of half-truths can fit perfectly with the contemporary Filipino (as well as Thai) society. These half-truths easily hid away their sins, fears and cowardices. The cop who asked Heremias for the bribe and denied to help the girl or the priest who can do nothing except praying) might be seen as a malevolent person, but they actually are just a device of social structure full with terror, exploitation, struggle and moral inertia, left alone the existentially good-minded Heremias with his crippled function to the town.

The speechless Heremias was then becoming the one who was deceived by the stories; the stories always destroyed the truth and even demolished his morality. The stories in Heremias have the same function as the radio plays in Evolution of the Filipino Family. This kind of stories will be subversively criticized furthermore in his later films, especially in Death in the Land of Encantos.

Death in the Land of Encantos
Benjamin Argusoun is a poet , the pride of his hometown , but when he come back to his hometown ,there was no any hometown left
In 2006 , Typhoon Reming reach the coastline of Philippines. It was the most violent typhoon in Filipino history that was blew out the little town near the volcano till it was disappear. The only thing left was a volcano rocks . His girlfriend who’ve waited for him till her life end was buried inside the sea of mud. Some of his friends survive one of them becoming a fisherman and father of three sons , one opening a studio at the volcano sculpting the pumices , just pumices only cause she hate it so she will give birth to a beautiful things from what the volcano spit out . She used to be one of his lovers but now only sorrow left , they just keep talking to each other sadly about the religion , the philosophy, the politics or the arts but everything looks sad .They travel back to the ruins and found only a sound of strong winds blewing angry at the end of the earth
Benjamin start to investigating deep into his family history . He investigating deep dpwn into a stories of his father who was die sober after his mother goes crazy because she has strong faith in a myth that she was a bride for the prince of balck monkey and not belong to this world . His sister commited a suicide by jump off the buiding . The more he investigate ,the more sadness he found .He go to the city to find out about his mother while she was admitted in mental hospital and found out that the police officer atill tracking him for Phillipines to Russia where he escaped , he can never hide himself form the eye of the state , who in the end coming back to threating him in the coffee shop .
Like past , present and future flow over each other . Benjamin learned that ‘Being back home’ made hil slowly goes crazy .He asked for death from his friends who will never do him his favor so he just wandering alone in the land of the ruins between and ancient volcano and newborn river slowly that sloly eating his soul leading him to the tragedy

At the first time Lav just wanted to take the camera to the town ans recording everything because this is the same town he shot EVOLUTION OF FILIPPINO FAMILY .All locations in this films was vanished ,the house he used to live during the shooting was disappeared so Lav and his crew starting to shot the footage of the town and people .then while he documented that the idea and the sotry came and he satrted to make a narrative film covering on the documentary and blend it together

The film start from the scene of the ruins , the dead trees reach their brancheds into the mist , the pumices spread all over the earth , the newborn river then we see the guy wandering from faraway then he stop ,sit down and start crying between the ruins then he dream about his mother wwandering alone in the forest then it was cut ti the interview the villagers who survived from typhoon .The film split into three parts , first the story of mother second the story of Benjamin and third the documentary of the survivors

Like what he used to do with the Radioplay in Evolution and Oral narrtives in Heremias ,the documentary of the survivors in this film (and the film script in Melancholia -his later film) Lav pay attention to media and the way to criticising media by creating another narrative that was led by the media , the media have influences for the cahracters or even being like a mirror to reflected the characters themselves
It’s like a film within film , in Death in the Land of Encantos Lav even put himself on screen as a documentary director who used to be there , at the same time the film tell the story about Cursed Land as the myth that make the town ruined and furthermore Lav himself pays his guilty by picking the footage from his unfinsihed film ‘Heremias Book2’ put inside this film , the scene that was about the curse from the snake tail , the cursed of Heremias ‘s parents .It’s like Lav and his previous films have some responsible for the curse , for the typhoon too . In this terms media / stories becoming a part of life that cannot be seperated . He doesn’t criticised the media as just a threats but he portrays that actually it was blending to life of the characters and him also like the way he put his passion of cinema into his films via an interview of LINO BROCKA in Evolution and ANDREI TARKOVSKY in Encantos when his characters talk about russia and Tarkovsky , furthermor this film itself was going the same way as a character in Tarkovsky’s STALKER going into ‘THE ZONE’ especially in one scene when the characters fell down on the floor and stay still in the same position with this classic scene in STALKER just changing the landscape from the tarn to the pumices
The title of the film can be translate into english as ‘ Death in the land of enchantment’ enchantment in a supernatural terms actually . ‘Land’ in Lav’s films always be ‘A Cursed Land’ ( A village and abandoned gold mine in Evolution , Town with a myth of Japanese soldier in Heremias Book1 , Heremias home town in Heremias Book 2 or a watsed land after typhoon in Encantos or even a forest of dead in Melancholia) and a cursed land will come with ‘Crazy Women’ like Hilda -Raynaldo’s mother in Evolution or Benjamin’s mother in Encantos . Benjamin’s mother think she’s a wife of Prince of Black Monkey. This strong believe bring her to the craziness after married. One ay she find a strange flower in the forest , she knows that thi is the sign of Prince of Black Monkey , he will come and take her back ( maybe his mother was like Phlilppines and a symptom of a legacy from Colonial time , who was independent from the prince but still needs him have nostalgic for him like a love-hate relationship between the colonists and the local people . A trace of colonialism not just left as a wound of direct oppression but still rooting themselves through the half-breed culture) . After that his father took his mom to the mental hospital and she never came back anymore .There are to more women that share a representation of the country Philippines one was his girlfriend who die in the disaster. He dream of her in naked like he dream of another women , his girlfriend in Russia ( Actually this relationship is going the same way of relationship between three daughter to her father Raynaldo and her cousins Kadyo in Evolution , between Helena the girl that the gangster plan to rape and Heremias in Heremias Book 1 or even between the wife in the dream of Julian one of the main characters in Melancholia) We probably said that maybe Philippines in Lav’s eyes is a female who if not die , gone crazy .
But in Encantos there are one more women , Catalina the sculptor the close friend and lovers of Benjamin. She was different from any other women of Lav’s films beacuse shw was not dead , not gone crazy but she was the one who hates this land . Catalina used to be in state-resistance group with Benjamin now she becoming a sculptor who give birth a beutiful things from the ugliness of this land (a pumices). She is not the land she is the land resistance and she was like a mold to Alberta Munoz the main character in Melancholia

After dealing with poor people in his previous two films. Now he making film about another group of people , an intellectuals , the activists those who involve in political situation and affected from it . In Encantos after first five hours no politcal events involved but suddenly in one scene aftet Benjamin found out that his mom gone completly crazy assualt another patient and die , he take his numb body to the coffeshop sit in the deepest part try to write about his mom’s death . Somebody walk in the scene as a silhouette and greet him the bog poet the he declare that he was a state agent who keep his eye on Benmjamin. He knew about Benjamin’s mom , about Russia and threaten him that not to do anything anymore or maybe he will lose his life ,for the first time theaudiences knows about state -resistance group abou why he escaped to Russia then after this scene Benjamin becoming like his mother, gradually gone mad . One of his friends stop his poet’s life turn his back to the politics and live his normal life , the other one turn herself into pure art stop caring her own country or history , only Benjamin left came back to face his birth land , the land that buried his love , he dig the histoey out if it a history of crazy mother we can say that Benjamin , the one who pay really attention to his country becoming no country for him to live anymore
Encantos means enachantment but in a kind of supernatural enchantment like superstitious enchantment Eveyody in this film stuck within their own superstitious enchantment normal life , art , poem , history , philosophy , or even politics They’re all living in land of encantos and someone dies there

In some way land of superstitious in lav’s films goes futher than the satiric meaning but it showing us and element of a supernatural event too in Evolution we see a ghost of three daughter’s mother comeback to lay her daugther down on her lap , a doppleganger of one of the three daughters wandering through the house of her sister ,in Heremias we met a ghost in the shelter he appeared in one scene and ‘ve got nothing to do with the whole story and in Encantos the exist of Prince of the Black Monkey , Benjamin’s premonition of his mother coming back to lay him on her lap . Ghost in Lav’s film have nothing to do with the stories but the exist of ghost was like the a ghost of history ghost od the antecedents that keep coming back to haunted their descedents. In Encantos there’re one scene that Benjamin was torture by the state officer this scene was coming out of the blue and ‘ve no connection to the story in this scene the state becoming like a kind of ghost a ghost that we’ve nver saw but still haunted us , an invisible hand of state
Melancholia

She came to this town as a prostitute. At the same time, another woman entered the town as a nun who walked around asking for donation. The prostitute met a guy who worked as a pimp who organized a sex show. These three stuck together while waiting for the rain to stop. The nun was attacked by the whore and the pimp and ran away. We found out later that they are friends and it was their experiment of pretending to be someone else. They have been doing it once a year for about five years, wishing it can resolve the sorrow of losing their love ones for they were killed or abducted by state officers during the political events.

The nun disappeared. The experiment was over. The prostitute turned back to her real life as a school principle Alberta Munoz, the name which a customer once used to tease her but she refused. The pimp came back as an enthusiastic editor Julian who had been dreaming that his dead wife was out singing in the woods. The two met sometimes, asking each other about the vanishing nun who fall into the grief of irredeemable sin. Moreover, Alberta was having an obstacle with her adopted daughter who left home to be a prostitute. Meanwhile, Julian was planning to publish his new novel about the deceptive history of filipino cinema.

Later on, Alberta got a news about the skeleton they found in the forest which could be her husband’s who disappeared years ago. Futhermore, they found out that their friend, the nun who ran away, had killed herself. They were left alone carrying their own sin. Alberta went on searching her lost daughter while Julian stuck inside his own grief until he had gone crazy.

Melancholia still shares the same elements with his previous films. Actually, the plot of Melancholia and Encantos are like twins. These two films use the same group of actors and also tell the story of the same intellectual characters in a corrupted country. Melancholia could be another version of Encantos only if Benjamin (in Encantos) decided to escape into the woods like Raynalto (Alberta’s husband) and his wife did not die but rather transformed from Catalina (in Encantos) into Alberta. In short, if Encantos is all about looking back to the painful history under and after the typhoon Melancholia is about nothing but looking forward to the difficulty of future and the life ahead. If Encantos focuses on political heroes, Melancholia focuses on the people around those figures. If Encantos talks about the dead ones (the people who died in the October 1976 incident in Thailand might be a good metaphor), Melancholia talks about those who are still living. Ironically, Encantos means superstitious enchantment while Melancholia means sorrow. Only these two things are left as the residues of the struggling history of the people, not triumph or the new world.

The characters in Melancholia still hold the same position as other Lav’s characters which are those who was forever exiled from the political involvement. The dead Raynalto is an obvious example. The other characters in his films were exiles too, but the kind of exile in Melancholia happened as a game of being someone else. Other Lav’s characters wander sadly without destination but those in Melancholia exile themselves on purpose. For other people, being someone else was like a process of treatment to cure the disease of ‘unforgotten memory’ but actually it is a process of redemption-the sorrowful redemption of the activists who cannot change the world. Being a prostitute, a nun or a pimp was in a way the sacrifice of the bourgeoisie who disguised themselves as a poor to taste the poverty-to become one of them for one or two months a year. It was nothing but an activity of relieving their grieve which makes them feel reunited with their friends who died for the sake of what they were fighting for. It was nothing but an illusion of deceiving themselves, romanticizing the struggle and dreaming that they were a part of collective pain of the commoners, while in fact they were actually the ones who gained profit from the state. It was portrayed sharply in the scene that Alberta visited an activist friend who became cripple and decided to turn his back on politics. Alberta blamed him for being a loser and a coward before he retorted that he was very poor now that he almost couldn’t feed his family and he is still threatened by state officers and this is what the middle class people like Alberta could not understand.

The way of romanticizing the struggle was portrayed in the story of Alberta who claimed that her stepfather assaulted her when she was young and the pain still hurt. This story was growing up along the time and led to the real pain inside her stomach. This is a kind of disease of the revolutionists who believed that they did the right thing while in fact stuck inside their own version of history.

The film was divided into three parts. The first was the process of being someone else in a village, the second was their time in Manila and the last part was in the forest and the time of the struggle. We can say that the first part is the characters’ romanticizing history, the second is their real unromantic life (in which sometimes being a bourgeoisie is an irredeemable sin) and the last part is the real history of sorrow and craziness that makes those who escaped into the forest was tensely chased until they had gone mad for real.

Furthermore, we can divided the characters in this film into three generation. Start with Alberta’s mother as the middle class woman who has gained profit during the Marcos regime, followed by Alberta herself as one of those who are against Marcos and then Alberta’s daughter Hanah who represents the generation that does not care about politics anymore-the girl who thinks that the mother does not love her and runs away to become a prostitute. And the more the film claims that Hanah is the daughter of the revolution (she was adopted by Alberta as her real mother was due during the struggle), the more we see the opposite consequences of the revolution that goes on a melancholic path. In one scene, Alberta followed her daughter into a pub but cannot find her. She only saw a crowd of teens getting drunk and losing themselves but still cannot find her. This is a true melancholic way of revolution.

This is the monotone universe of Lav Diaz. The universe whose colors are all extracted so that only reality is left, the universe in which the small activities are more important than the narratives, the universe that is trapped in the people’s struggle and the universe of the journey to the origin of madness. If we judge Lav’s films by their look, we can see that his production is lack of consistency. The sound recording is not nice, the scene are too long, the exposure is not perfect, the lighting is not beautiful and the story goes on extremely slow. But aren’t these things a tool of colonialism-a cinematic colonialism that ties the film with big production and budget? The existence of Lav’s extremely long films can be easily judged as his own pleasure, but on the other hand this is a resistance not in the narrative sense but in the whole process of making films. This is the statement of resistance that is hardly seen in the cinematic world.

One thought on “DEATH IN THE LAND OF MELANCHOLIA : A COMMON PEOLPLE EPIC OF LAV DIAZ

  1. Pingback: Article Alert: Death in the Land of Melancholia | Paint dayouth

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