By Aldo Padilla
Narrating a country’s historical moment requires understanding it as a complex cycle. It’s not enough with the ambience and historical context. It’s important to suggest the entire travelled road to this day and try to incorporate it in the work. The Philippines is going through a complex moment where abuses of the past seem to come back, since the government appears to be outsourcing violence and keeping the population in fear. Before and now, the story has been the same, with the only different of a few names that have changed. To narrate this past abuses, Lav Díaz chooses to appeal to the language and structure of the musical, to generate new ways of manifestation, through an experiment where a capella melodies magnify the abuse of the oppressor and dignify the people’s denounces.
Season of the Devil is a constant break of schemes where the two faces of the conflict respond to one another with the same rhythm, force, and sometimes with the same sensibility. Only the great direction of Lav Díaz can differentiate to whom one of the arguments belong to. In the beginning, a strong denouncing poem marks the way that the filmmaker will follow in his almost 4 hours of footage. The rest of the film moves between silent cinema and musical without instrumentation, thus focusing all musicality in the voice and its little variations, which determinate the emotional state of each character, singing in a naked voice, not always according to the melody, which in some cases repeats itself during the film.
The film develops its script three soundtracks, where in one side, lies the unidimensional soldiers committing different atrocities throughout the different rural areas of the Philippines, and at the other, a couple of a poet and a doctor with different conceptions of how to help the country, being intimidated by such ideas. Finally, short segments are seen where the protagonist is a witch that represents the fantastic world of Díaz, and defines this complex relation between state, people and nature, which isn’t always harmonic.
There’s a subtle visual change in the style of the Philippine filmmaker, defined by some asymmetric and angular shots which give the camera a more omniscient vision, a vision which can be understood as a state that seems to control everything, especially its opposition which is constantly surveilled.
Lav is probably the freest famous filmmaker today; he handles his own times without restrictions, and transforms every code of being in that revolutionary entity which seeks a change in front of constant injustice. Lav not only revolutionizes the aesthetics as such, but also introduces himself deeply in the paradigm shifts that cinema needs in the middle of production chains that repeat the same formulas over and over.
Written and directed by: Lav Diaz
Cinematography: Larry Manda
Editing: Lav Diaz
Music: Lav Diaz