Gertjan Zhuillof

Majestic masterpiece by the Filipino Lav Diaz who takes his time to tell a story with great emotion. In meditative black & white images, the fateful life of travelling salesman in the countryside comes to life slowly but surely. He is the victim of corruption and theft, but his spirit doesn’t seem breakable.

The Heremias that was screened last year as a work in progress at the festival was already as long as two features. Now this ‘book’ is finished, six features would fit in it with ease. That Lav Diaz takes the time to make the suffering of his protagonists tangible is clear, but how he shapes this story as it were from his locations, that remains some kind of magic.

It is no coincidence that the protagonist, Heremias, has a biblical name. The trials that face him would make anyone renounce their faith. But not Heremias. Life is made impossible for him when his ox cart, with his whole livelihood, is stolen and he falls victim to corrupt rural police. As in his monumental epic Evolution of a Filipino Family. Diaz provides a picture through a personal drama of social conditions in the Philippines as these have developed during the 20th century. The rural locations, captured in beautiful black & white images give the film and its story a timeless aspect. This also emphasises the parable element in this unmistakable morality tale.

The film provides an almost meditative viewing experience. The long, uncut shots slowly draw the viewer into a story with an enormous emotional impact. Diaz is at present working on the second book by Heremias – rumoured to easily surpass the first in length. That is something to look forward to next year.