Tito Quiling Jr.

The line is taken from a passionate outburst by the artist Homer, the film’s main character. Siglo ng Pagluluwal (2011) by Lav Diaz presents a parallel view of how traditions can be broken and reinvented in order for growth to take place. One comes from a filmmaker in the city who is struggling with finishing his film and the other, a cult leader in the province –oppressing change and strictly imposes his ideologies onto his followers.

 

Alternatively known as Century of Birthing (2011), the film contains two seemingly unrelated narratives which eventually wraps up cleanly. The first one presents the distressing case of an independent filmmaker named Homer, who inches his way in concluding his latest project. He is constantly given support by his friends, and slowly, he tries to work on his materials, but he is disheartened by the fact that films are hastily made for festivals, instead of creating for art’s sake. Serving healthy bouts of artistic retaliation and personal grievances, Homer epitomizes the quintessential independent artist – financially handicapped but greatly fueled by passion.

 

The second narrative focuses on a Christian cult ministered by the enigmatic Father Tiburcio who has a following of “virgins” at his disposal. As it turns out, he is another false priest, using decorative words and tyranny to keep his members in check and faithful. His manipulative nature led to the group’s downfall, when one of its members gets corrupted, thereby rendering their “purity” invalid.

 

Both stories are tales of pressure, mainly affected by change. For Homer, the filmmaker, he seems to be frustrated with the change that is happening in local cinema. He still believes in cinema as being a reminder to the world of varying times, while the industry is turning into a capitalist market. Father Tiburcio is strongly resistant to change. He knows that change, as influenced by outsiders, will have a negative effect on their group. More importantly, it will ruin his act, and erase his status as their master.

 

In the same vein, the disparity between city life and rural life is depicted in the film. The urban being more fast-paced and modern compared to the slow life in the mountains, carefully observant of their time-honored rituals. In the city, age-old traditions blend well with new and fresh customs, thereby adding another feature in the melting-pot of urban dwellers, and the place itself. On the other hand, the countryside offers a more passive space for people. Visitors tend to be noticeable because of the evident contrast in various ways: general appearance, manner of dressing, familiarity with the area, and constantly taking photographs of everything they see.

 

Classically strong landscape shots, unremitting long takes, and unhurried unfolding of events are consistent throughout the film. While Lav Diaz is famous for his long takes, which sum up into a film of epic-length; his presentation of reality, local color, and sincere rhetoric about cinema, particularly its past, present, and future create a strong connection to his audience.

 

Perhaps, the long takes in his films mirror ‘real’ time occurrence in ‘reel’ time experience. The temporal similarity enables the audience to become entwined with cinematic time and being in an actual moment. Through this, viewers are able to feel as if they are moving in the same time with the characters and places onscreen. Even though at times, it is slightly disconcerting with the audience, who are typically accustomed to a two-hour or so film viewing instead of an intense, six-hour movie.

 

Today, mainstream cinema is dominated by large corporations and studios with their main intent as raking in money, as opposed to actually presenting a decent film. Instead of coming up with a strong storyline, formulaic narratives are used to secure box-office hits, charging overpriced tickets for their ‘star-studded’ film.

 

Dubbed as the “Father of Philippine New Wave Cinema,” Lav Diaz reconfigured independent filmmaking through the use of digital technology, as opposed to staying in the traditional film stock era. Narrative-wise, his application of authentic stories makes his film more believable for the audience. His sense of place is genuine, delivering crisp imagery of the nooks and crannies in cities, towns, and beyond.  He makes use of diverse locations in the country – from his wide-angle shots of the mountaintops in Maguindanao, to an extreme close-up of raindrops on a gumamela leaf in the middle of a Visayan city.

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