“I am trying to understand time in my cinema”-Lav Diaz
As someone said that this is a time when deceit and lies are mainstream while truth is the fringe! So this is where Filipino Director Lav Diaz bring his latest film The Woman Who Left (Filipino: Ang Babaeng Humayo) 2016 Philippine drama. The film briefly as a plot is about a women who is imprisoned for 30 years in jail of a crime she did not commit. The film opens with a radio newsflash announcing Britain’s handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997 by which we get to understand the time the film is set. The colonial impact on Philippines is a long history which has been a huge set back to its people and the political atmosphere in the country. Charo Santos-Concio as Horacia is our protagonist walking out of the jail after 30 years and finding her husband is dead, the son is missing and the daughter who was just seven when she was imprisoned is away from home. Horacia stands strong as if she ha
s gathered enormous calmness within to gather all of that. Lav beautifully designs this mother who spent her most promising age in the jail teaching inmates children and being a loving friend to the Jailor at the prison who shreds tears of joy knowing her release. Lav Diaz puts all of these in black and white Chiaroscuro-high contrast. His masterful cinematography and edit (which he did himself apart from direction) plays a very important role in extracting “Time” into which Horacia is in her ontological self! In the scene where she first finds Hollanda (John Lloyd Cruz), a cross-dresser with epilepsy is dancing on the street before getting black-out and fainting on the road, we find the director refuses to show the face of this cross dresser in a shot which ran for 8-10 mins approximately. His every frame, its time, the light, the faces, the space – inside the compositions where self explanatory. The shadows in lav films say a ton than the lighted parts. He exactly knows what to show and what not to! Unlike Lav’s earlier film this is a shorter duration of 3 hours and 47 mins comparing his other works which are 7 hours- 8 hours long! Lav does not believe in the system of 2 hour film which he finds a complete business proposal for cinema exhibitors! He calls his films to be “FREE” from all the stereo-typed.
Eventually Horacia befriends a disturbed homeless woman, a hunchbacked vendor of balot (eggs containing embryos) and Hollanda (John Lloyd Cruz), a cross-dresser with epilepsy (no pity involved) She feels compassionate for these homeless estranged sons of Philippines who could have been her own. So she takes care for them. She finds Hollanda once again in a terrible condition (brutally raped) where Hollanda could hardly sit on her back-she was bleeding. Horacia took care of Hollanda like her own son who must have been of the same age by now who is missing. Lav always talks about Humanity, the human dignity- the people of Philippines in the historical context-that’s his subject! Lav Deconstruct the whole notion of Prison and the so called “free” nation! Prison was shown in more sombre light where in-mates where more like a family where she teaches children inside the prison whereas the outside was Murky, chilling, empty alleys, occasional cry-Bikes and a sense of a “Silent nation” where kidnapping is rampant, rapes as every day stuff, drugs addicts roam freely, Human rights are violated-Rich becomes rich, poor more poorer which Horacia ironically finds as “Nothing Changed” from her disappearance 30 years back. Lav Diaz portrays the pain of her protagonist who finds extremely difficult to play the role of being “Human” at day and a “Killer” at Dark .She mimics, stumbles, pre visualise the killing of Rodrigo (horacio’s ex-lover who set her in) but fails at her shifting moral accountability. She was crying heavily inside!
Lav Diaz brings a fine combination of cinema and installation art in his closing where Horacia – the mother travels to manila-the city in search of her missing son with “missing person leaflets” and lays them in the middle of the market, infront of the church, the busy city-blooming city. This whole section of the film I believe was shot guerrilla. People in the street were in no shock to find a mother looking for their children.
This is no critic but a sheer love for LAV! Culture Lav DIAZ! The Woman who Left got the top prize at the 73rd Venice Film Festival 2016.