An eight-hour, intermission-less film may be daunting to many, but such is the incomparable, experiential cinema of Lav Diaz, one of the most singular filmmakers of his generation. Diaz is a formidable and unique figure in contemporary world cinema. Widely recognized as the “godfather” of the New Filipino cinema, Diaz, through mentorship and guided collaboration, has significantly contributed to the rise of a young and prolific digital cinema movement. Given his films are unavailable on DVD and their marathon lengths obviate any form of commercial play, we are extremely pleased to present the North American premiere of Diaz’s latest film, Melancholia.
Directed, written, shot, edited and produced by Diaz, Melancholia is en epic tone poem of novelistic proportions. Displaying his signature high definition black-and-white video, with a palette ranging from chiaroscuro to ash, Melancholia comprises a triptych story of suffering, in which three characters assume roles in order to escape their personal despair. Alberta plays a reluctant prostitute, Julian her pimp, and Rina a charity-seeking nun as the trio attempt to quell their all-consuming grief by feigning alternate existences, worlds away from their bourgeois lives. A flip in chronology reveals the source of Alberta’s pain: her husband Renato, a leftist activist, has gone to fight a bloody war of ideals and is presumed dead. Diaz leads us to him, making us bear witness to a world of madness. The film is both a political statement on the desaparecidos (those kidnapped by military operatives) as much as it is a lamentation about the gloomy state of the world. While Melancholia may be Diaz’s bleakest work yet, it’s as poetic as it is punk, and features a music interlude by his noise rock band, The Brockas (named after Lino Brocka), with Diaz on electric guitar and fellow director Khavn De la Cruz on keyboards. The film won the “Orrizonti” (Horizons) award at last year’s Venice Film Festival, a distinction honouring innovation in film form and spirit. As Paolo Bertolin of the Venice Film Festival states: “Melancholia proves once again the enrapturing and mesmerizing power of Lav Diaz’s cinema, a spell that captures you from the very first frames and carries you throughout the film’s fluvial length, by enveloping the viewer in political dramas of great emotional and lyrical resonance.”