8 Things to Know
About Lav Diaz’s
“Ang Panahon ng Halimaw”
By Macky Macarayan
Lav Diaz is one filmmaker that continues to push the boundaries of cinema, with his penchant for black-and-white, long takes and running times that will likely rearrange the molecules in one’s brain (Meryl Streep, 2016). Starting with 2013’s Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan, Diaz’s films got to be screened outside of arthouse venues and film schools, bringing forth his visions of society into a wider audience. His new film, Ang Panahon ng Halimaw, again criticizes a society besieged by unspeakable evil, one that is neither ethereal nor imaginary.
The film is billed as a rock opera
Although the film can be considered a musical, Diaz presents all songs in acapella, perhaps a haunting lamentation to the Philippines’ endless misfortunes. Every character sings their motivations and aspirations, and through Larry Manda’s use of chiaroscuro and long takes, the experience, although not consistently electrifying, is assuredly provocative.
The film indirectly portrays present time
Although the film is set in 1979 during Ferdinand Marcos’ violent Martial Law regime, the events and characters depicted are today’s horrors, from the extrajudicial killings to the spread of fake news, up to the elimination of enlightened individuals who are deemed a threat to the fascist rule of a few.
The written word is such a powerful tool against oppression
In the film, Piolo Pascual plays Hugo Haniway, a poet, and writer who embarks on a search for his disappeared wife Lorena (Shaina Magdayao). During the earlier part of the film, Hugo reads some of his writings amongst the townsfolk and talks about the current affairs of their community. Later, he conveys his hesitation about Lorena’s departure in a letter, despite acknowledgment of Lorena’s duty to provide medical care to their fellowmen. In most parts of the film, the paramilitary forces try to strike down any source of enlightenment, which is viewed as an uprising against their power.
History repeats itself
As if to say that we have not learned from the horrors of the past, Diaz, who wrote all the songs in the film, uses lines that are repeated several times (e.g. “Ako ang hari, ako ang pari… ako ang yayari…”). Repetition is one of the prominent devices that Diaz employs to illustrate the cyclical nature of violence and oppression, and our seeming indifference to it all. The town plagued by the devil is even aptly named “Ginto,” which when taken literally, translates to “gold.” Guns, goons and gold— the oppressors in this film have them all.