Thursday, December 22, 2016

Lav Diaz's "Ang Araw Bago ang Wakas" - Up For Interpretation

“In the year 2050, the Philippines braces for the coming of the fiercest storm ever to hit the country. And as the wind and waters start to rage, poets wander the streets.” So goes the blurb for Lav Diaz’s 17-minute short film.

My mind raced back to Dodo Dayao's "Violator" for wasn't the tale set in the midst of a raging storm? The film opens without hint of the future so without the blurb, it could have happened today. 

A mangy dog scavenges the streets of Evangelista (either in Quiapo or in Pavia, Iloilo). A dentist does prophylaxis on the patient. A waiter tends to the customers of a restaurant. A student slouches on a thick book.Despite the warnings, it's just another day in the lives of the people.

Elsewhere, a man starts reciting the third act of Shakespeare's "Hamlet":  "To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer. The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune, Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles, And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep." In steady succession, the poetry goes on: Ophelia (Hamlet's potential wife) comes into the picture. A girl (Hazel Orencio) marches into the scene, sits on a bench and bewails the difficulty she's having: "Kung anu-anong pinagagawa ng director." You'd hear her say. A commentary maybe about the film making process not being a walk in the park?

There's a steel work nearby, and as the night falls, Shakespeare turns... Ilocano? The same girl then recites Mark Antony's speech (Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar") before the market crowd who's mostly oblivious to her ramblings. It felt like Moses warning her brethren about an impending catastrophe. But in the midst of different dialects (yes, dialects, not "languages", excuse me), the exercise is lost in the most unlikely trumpeteers of doom. 

Then the rains come in torrents. Soon, the streets fill with flood. The girl scampers for home, but a shadowy figure follows her. Is the devil trailing her? 

Lav Diaz's short film is a series of seemingly unrelated narrative strings with a "lot" of missing strains thus it's hard to make sense of them. The images are prepossessing. There's the skewed horizon we've grown accustomed to from Diaz's "Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon" (2014) and the proclivity to offer no explanation. The concluding scenes particularly baffles: From the very wet exteriors, the camera takes us inside a very dry room - well-lighted, and more importantly unimpaired by the cataclysm outside. Then it zooms in on a moth! Voice over: "He arrives silently bringing with him color; and life."  

Though not particularly a satisfying experience, "Ang Araw Bago ang Wakas" (The Day Before the End) is a thought-provoking tale employing incongruent images. It could be a discourse about heeding warnings or the role of destruction to bring forth new life - or both. Wouldn't you be interested in Lav's thoughts on this film (because questions beg to be asked)?

The blurb isn't very appropriate though. The "poets" start to wander the streets before "the wind and waters start to rage". It won the principal prize at the 62nd International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen, Germany last May this year.

Lav Diaz is finally appreciated in his homeland; something that we've wished for him even before he became prominent abroad. His films have found an audience among Filipinos. Who would have thought that "Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis" would get SRO screenings when it opened here? For someone who doesn't believe in lengthy expositions, I love his films. Diaz is a genre all his own. I've seen most of his films. I even like him as an actor, last seen in "Singing in Graveyards". Let's just hope he gets his horizons straight next time. Tee hee. 

#angarawbagoangwakas   #lavdiaz   #shortfilm   #hazelorencio

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