Crowned best film in Venice’s Horizons section, Lav Diaz’s latest madly uncommercial 7½ -hour magnum opus, “Melancholia,” like 2007’s “Death in the Land of Enchantment,” sets a trio of survivors wandering the country in a dirge to those lost to disaster — this time man-made. To reconcile themselves to the deaths of their leftist comrades and loved ones, two women and a man undertake a succession of role-changes as a radical form of grief therapy. But the alienation implied by their incarnations of a prostitute, pimp and nun, assumed at the pic’s opening, reads as anything but therapeutic.
Diaz’s now-signature B&W, high-contrast video imagery frames a more elliptical, indecipherable story than usual, as characters appear and reappear, in what may or may not be their true identities, against desolate Filipino villages and Manila cityscapes. In its extraordinary final chapter, the abstract pic climaxes with a chronicling of the last days of three men (perhaps the revolutionary dead whom the protagonists are mourning?) as they trek through primeval forests pursued by militia, madness and melancholia. Simultaneously lamenting the futility of change yet celebrating reinvention, the improbable “Melancholia” lingers on the brain.