Assault against powerful women
Two of the most prominent characters in the film, Lorena (Magdayao) and Kwago (Pinky Amador) have the noblest of intentions, yet they are continually cast aside by the paramilitary forces. Lorena only wants to provide medical aid to the distressed residents of Ginto, while Kwago is seeking justice for her murdered husband and son. Their situation strikingly reflects the current political climate in the Philippines, where powerful women are being silenced. To add another layer of criticism, Tinyete (Hazel Orencio), being in a state of power, uses her position to destroy subversion. And it isn’t just turning a blind eye that is Tinyete’s greatest sin; it is actually her active participation in the rape, kidnapping and murder of women and children that is most grotesque.
Land as a character
Land, or soil is perhaps the most common element in all of Lav Diaz’s films, probably because it is his point of revolution, his struggle (according to a colleague). Hence, we see characters and their relationship to the land they are situated in. For example, we see Aling Sinta digging for root crops, almost in futility; then, the story takes place in a remote barrio, where paved roads which symbolize progress are almost nonexistent. Take these into present context, what with the Spratlys dispute and our mounting debt to China, and the parallelisms might as well be subtitled onscreen.
The titular devil is overtly and shamelessly two-faced
Noel Sto. Domingo plays the demagogue Chairman Narciso, who literally has another human face at the back of his head, akin to Voldemort attached to the back of Professor Quirrell’s head in “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” Sound familiar? Here’s another unsubtle characteristic: Chairman Narciso’s dialogue is incomprehensible, but his blind followers seem to understand what he is saying.
Call to Action
Diaz has grown weary of metaphors, having used them since the 90s to depict the country’s sordid state. Although the film still has them, the references are notably more overt, screaming to be recognized. Perhaps, this is where Diaz is now, asking the audience what more can he do to rally the people into action.
* All screenshots taken from the movie’s trailer below: