Heremias (Book One: The Legend of the Lizard Princess)
By Olaf Moller
After Batang West Side, his first complete work with a non commercial running time (The criminal of barrio conception as well as Jesus, revolutionary had had epic incarnations, the producer and Diaz had fights about it); after Batang West Side and with Evolution on the mind and a DV Camera in the hand Diaz began to talk again and again about a Filipino trilogy, where the different parts belong together without being connected by characters or stories, three films that stand for themselves and that overtop alone and together all ordinary filmmaking.
Messinian modernity, monochromatique meditations, grow out of the mud of the fields,( now follows Olaf Möllers own language, I can’t translate J)….)
an aesthetique measured by the life of peasants and beggars and shepard’s and pilgrims and driving sales persons…and…
Diaz didn’t know how this should look like. He would only find out while working on the actual film.The films-post Batang West Side (which followed the shooting script exactly), should develop organically from the topic and from the concrete situation.
Each of the film would become a model, three different stories, the exile, the home, the search, three different forms according to their needs.
Evolution got his singular form only in the editing process. Diaz thought for a very long time he would tell the story about a peasant family during the Marcos time chronologically. When he began to edit the film like that, he discovered that there was more to the images and humans than only the story. Its form should be different from classical narration. A highly complex knot, a mosaic. Each scene, an autonomous segment. Image to image and sound to sound bonds, free from all psychology, like weeping about the historical non-development of the Philippines. Also a requiem, carried by a vision, that a strong will is absolutely necessary to change circumstances of life.
The time and with it the story is moving forwards, because it cant help it, but the dead will rise one day, their bodies untouched by the time. Past, present and future stand unmerciful next to each other, tell and comment on different levels of reality. References are layered like materials, memories of the painter Juan Luna and Jose Rizal arise, on their visions and pictures.
In Heremias you only recognize later, hours later, how certain memories, fragments and moments relate to each other, narrative, on the chronology of the events.
The moments could stand on their own too, the story thinks it differently: A last change/shift in the last scene, a last story, and our mind is confronted one more time, because everything is different now, with the film.
A last creation of the mind and the character is there: Jean Vigo died, it is written as an epitaph, the director Tikyo Aguiluz named the Philippines according to the last state of emergency a bad remake of Evolution of a Filipino family.
A whole part of evolution was lost while editing: the beginning that was shot already in 1994 on 16mm. It is the story of the sailor Ray Gallardo who stranded in the US, remembering his home. It is a 5hour ghost story, which Diaz wants to tell one day as well, but first of all Heremias must be finished, because it is there, as material, as a once thrown-away effort, to the Philippines from exile, to tell the perspective of fleeing and searching, which doesn’t work, as Diaz found out, when he returned home with his material from the states, where he lived on the early 90s.
A paradox, that the Philippines refuse to be told out of exile, where the distance what means exile most of the time, is such an important trait of the country. In exile there’s the beginning of the Philippines, which stories were told and written by wanderers, emigrants and exile’s, who didn’t all return. Diaz did return, after years of unfinished films. The real subject of the story of evolution, their narrator, was dissolving more and more in the editing- The subject was banned, sacrificed. In his place steps a polyphony of voices and stories.
The Philippines and its people should be only the memories of one human and now they are there and remember themselves.
(The story of Batang West side….)
Batang West Side is Lav Diaz last film shot on film and in colour, the distances between things gloom and sparkle. But he cares about that in every images there is something edgy, but only for a moment, so that you don’t lose yourself in the film
The black and white make tabula rasa. Another quality of beauty is defined.
After a mind blowing masterpiece, a film from éclat ant individuality, a cine-earthy epiphany, we always ask ourselves what would follow next when it is obvious that this masterpiece has fulfilled already everything, that could be done...If things reached a kind of perfection and a definite peak, what then?
Something else, another kind of density, a vast field, another peak, steeper, sharper…more radical.
What is left over to tell after the epos of exile in Batang West Side and the epos of home in evolution? The epos about what connects exile and home. It is the story of someone seaking sense, a pilgrim, should he `meet`God.
In Heremias there is so far no past and no future, no memories and no documents, no references and no layers of time nor changes of materials, but perhaps there`s a miracle.
In Heremias there`s only the presence and the path of a single individual shown with slow moments in time- plan-opak-monochrome sound moving pictures.
Listen. Sketch the sound through the silence of sound/such that the syntax of nothing becomes speech. Says Ciriol F. Bautista in Sunlight on Broken Stones.
After the incredible breathtaking complex woven structure of Evolution of a Filipino family one really has to point out how simple Heremias Book One is. It is only about what will be. Heremias moves into the unknown.
Heremias does have a past. A former incarnation who carried the same name, but younger was at the end of the 80s hero of a TV series Balintataw, invented by Diaz also to free his mind of his Polio disease when he was eight, a prisoner of his body, when he had to learn again what the disease took from him.
But the remains of the disease stayed with him, memories that materialized and memories that changed their meaning, mutated and became invasions and the Philippines within Heremias the old one is imprisoned now.
Perhaps Heremias has a twin-sister. There`s an unfinished documentary named Nights of Alice, where he presented a first cut in 1994, she was like the female Heremias in US exile.
Already the first image of Heremias, even more powerful than in evolution sets a measure:
For minutes and minutes a bunch of carriers is coming closer along a winding road, until they disappear again. Cars drive through, pass by, they are too quick for the image, they vanish into pixel. Only the carriers in their slowness don`t vanish, their picture, their wholeness, their figures stay, they don`t have after effects, they just stay. The image is grey, although dusk is coming soon, It is the mysterious grey that also manifests in evolution, a grey that tells from absence… It swallowed something and is constantly swallowing something, the pictures become vacuum zones, in which everything dissolves, vanishes.
There are only wide shots, long shots and medium long shots in Heremias.. close ups are the extreme. Every image has a tension although it dissolves in every corner, it is free, more and more created by the wish to see, as by the surface. Everything is calm, the grey is tranquillising, at peace, the slowness, it is the image that creates, it gives the world the time it needs, a place with meaning and the necessity of art. When the rain changes the picture into a flowing darkness, a transparency as dense as rush that you cannot see anymore, than you know that there is a great danger. Total terror in the police station. Brutality in concrete, dictatorship of the 90degree, the human being, a prisoner of his own power, ability.
When the images become a bit rotten and you can feel cramps in the movements, too late, but Heremias is no longer his master of his life, is the light sometimes uninteresting and the composition vague, not fulfilled you see the slow decay of Heremias, a symptom of his downfall.
It is also an expression of rejection. Diaz seems to let the film collapse, something brakes, what cannot be fixed again., as if the limitedness of the film is not enough, the illness and decay need the same power than health and beauty and perfection
It is in such a moment that Heremias is challenging God.. In evolution the unstableness of the quality of the pictures get a dialectical dimension, also because of the time layers that are hidden in it, the different periods of shooting, the different materials...this own eternity within changes.
In Heremias they have something purely physical, like spots on a stomach, or blisters, an expression of exhaustion, the duration of things, their limitedness.
For the first hours Diaz doesn’t move the camera, only when Heremias is separating from the others, the camera moves too, something changes.
His life, it will be different, more complicated, therefore also the act of telling must be different, soon there will be subjective view, in it misery.
With such an subjective view Heremias is finding an apotheosis, a plan sequence for about an hour, one Mini DV tape, only for this shot. Heremias is watching a bunch of youngsters, like in a rite words and metaphors circle, words and words of disgust, without goal, words of social dislocation, drifting.
We can hear the persons that bring themselves into a state, lose themselves in moments.
Diaz who is with them in the ruins carefully pays attention to their words, that they repeat themselves, vary and reach a certain point in the improvisation, the camera films more the building than the actors. The performance is primarily for the sound, the opposite to the passages of silence, where we only listen to the sound of the wind, the leafs, the raindrops, a slow silence.