×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Death in the Land of Encantos

"Death in the Land of Encantos" unfolds in the devastated landscape left in the wake of Super Typhoon Durian.

With:
With: Roeder Camanag, Perry Dizon, Anglei Bayani, Dante Perez, Sophia Aves, Gemma Cuenca. (Tagalog, some English dialogue)

Lav Diaz’s latest black-and-white digital marathon, “Death in the Land of Encantos” (clocking in at nine hours), unfolds in the devastated landscape left in the wake of Super Typhoon Durian, the worst storm to hit the Philippines in living memory. Placing a threesome of fictional characters amid the rubble, Diaz measures the aftermath of this natural disaster within the larger trauma of the islands’ history. Plunging the viewer into an alternate time zone where distinctions between documentary and fiction, stasis and action slowly dissolve, pic confirms helmer’s status as a brilliant but consummately non-commercial artist.

Unlike Diaz’s other works, which were carefully constructed over time (“Evolution of a Filipino Family” was nine years in the making — and 10 hours in the viewing), “Death” sprang fully grown from the ravages of the typhoon in Bicol, where Diaz had lensed several previous films. Thus, the documentary elements could not be described as “interpolated,” but rather form the very clay from which the drama (if such slight strands of narrative can be so termed) is molded.

Pic, with its themes of art and madness, is headlined with a quote from Rilke: “Beauty is the beginning of terror.” Indeed, the region’s Mayon Volcano — which, under the onslaught of the storm, poured out mountains of rocks and debris, killed hundreds and buried whole towns — remains one of the most majestic, perfectly cone-shaped structures in nature.

Pic traces fictional famed poet Benjamin Agustan (Roeder Camanag), newly returned to the Philippines from a lengthy stint in Russia. Two of his lifelong friends, a painter/sculptress (Anglei Bayani) and a fellow-poet turned farmer/paterfamilias (Perry Dizon) welcome Agustan home, and the trio starts to hang out together. The three, like everyone in the obliterated village of Padang, lost several close relatives to the natural calamity.

Specters from the past haunt the poet, including images of a beautiful naked woman who turns out to be the girlfriend he left behind who is now interred in his old studio lying somewhere beneath his feet.

Other visions haunting the poet are less explicable, like the nondescript street where the viewer finds himself stranded for stretches as Agustan stalks the Russian woman who left him after their child died.

More disturbing still are scenes of his mother’s psychotic breakdown and his father’s desperate attempts to drive out the evil spirits with loops of twisted wire hung from trees. Madness stalks Agustan, as death and desolation lie over the land, the nude topmost branches of trees sticking up out of the ground where lush foliage once flourished.

Diaz’s stark black-and-white digital compositions frame a landscape so bleak and boulder-strewn, so empty of habitation that it is hard to believe the land was not barren from time primordial. Painful flashbacks to the region’s past resurrect a lost Eden. The only thing more shocking than the extent of the damage is the ages-deep acceptance in the eyes of the survivors.

Popular on Variety

Death in the Land of Encantos

Philippines

Production: A Produksyung Sine Olivia production in co-production with Hubert Bals Fund. (International sales: Produksyung Sine Olivia, Quezon City, Philippines.) Produced, directed, written, edited by Lav Diaz.

Crew: Camera (B&W, DV), Diaz; music, Diaz; production designer, Dante Perez; sound, George Vibar, Laurel Lee Penaranda. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Horizons), Sept. 8, 2007. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Visions.) Running time: 538 MIN.

With: With: Roeder Camanag, Perry Dizon, Anglei Bayani, Dante Perez, Sophia Aves, Gemma Cuenca. (Tagalog, some English dialogue)

More Film

  • Suro

    Lastor, ‘The Endless Trench’s’ Irusoin, Malmo Team for Mikel Gurrea’s ‘Suro’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN – Barcelona-based Lastor Media and Malmo Pictures have teamed with San Sebastian’s Irusoin to produce “Suro” (The Cork), the feature debut of Mikel Gurrea and a product of San Sebastian’s Ikusmira Berriak program. The film stars Laia Costa, who broke through with Sebastian Schipper’s “Victoria” and also serves as executive producer, and Pol López [...]

  • Ane

    Madrid’s ECAM Incubator Develops Terrorism Drama 'Ane'

    SAN SEBASTIAN — For the second year in a row, the ECAM Madrid Film School has paired a number of up-and-coming filmmakers with various industry veterans for an Incubator program part of the school broader development arm called The Screen. For its initial edition in 2018, this Incubator selected five feature projects, putting the selected [...]

  • Roma Cinematography

    'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' and 'Roma' Win LMGI Awards for Motion Pictures

    Two major 2018 releases – actioner “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and critics’ darling “Roma” – were honored for film location work by the Location Managers Guild International at a ceremony this evening at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The 6th Annual LMGI Awards also recognized “Chernobyl” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” [...]

  • Soho House

    Soho House Lands In Downtown Los Angeles

    Warner Music, Spotify and Lyft are poised to welcome a new neighbor to downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District with Soho Warehouse, the third California outpost of the Hollywood-loved members-only club — and the largest North American opening to date. Hot on the heels of the Soho House Hong Kong debut earlier this summer, the private [...]

  • Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider'

    Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider' Gets a Concert/Screening Premiere at Radio City

    In a year full of major 50th anniversary commemorations — from Woodstock to the moon landing — why not one for “Easy Rider,” Dennis Hopper’s hippie-biker flick that was released on July 14, 1969? That was the idea when a rep for Peter Fonda, who starred in the film as the laid-back Captain America, reached out [...]

  • Costa Gavras

    Costa-Gavras and Cast on Nationality, Identity, and Cinema

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Though he’s been based in Paris since 1955 and came up through the French film industry, director Costa-Gavras has never forgotten his roots. “Those who are born Greek,” said the Peloponnese-born filmmaker at a Saturday press conference,  “stay Greek all their lives.” The once-and-always Greek was not just in San Sebastian to [...]

  • Lorene Scafaria, Jennifer Lopez. Lorene Scafaria,

    'Hustlers' Director Lorene Scafaria: 'We Wanted to Treat It Like a Sports Movie'

    The star-studded cast of “Hustlers” didn’t just become strippers in the empowering female-helmed blockbuster — they also became athletes. When speaking to “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast, at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month, “Hustlers” director Lorene Scafaria explained the extreme athleticism required of the movie’s leading actresses, who all had [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content