– VENICE 2022: Filipino great Lav Diaz does another grueling revenge tragedy, this time focusing on two corrupt cops with a grudge
John Lloyd Cruz and Shamaine Buencamino in When the waves are gone
As much as Lav Diaz‘s work exists on the outer limits of narrative cinema, with his films’ ever-developing runtimes and elliptical plotting, he still has a penchant, or a weakness, for a tightly spun thread. North, the End of Historyhis most widely viewed work (which is no accident, as it is one of his only films shot in color), it gained a life support structure by adhering so closely to Dostoevsky’s philosophy. Crime and Punishment, because he glimpsed the mental disintegration of a young intellectual after a judicial error. Here, at its premiere out of competition in Venice When the waves are gone – touted as a return to more commercial form for the former Golden Lion and Golden Leopard winner – has been loosely adapted Alexander Dumas‘ The Count of Monte Cristo to tell a sad and dismal story of national decline in the corrupt era of Duterte in his country. In keeping with its early 19th century aura and inspirations, it builds smoothly into a suspenseful confrontation sequence not far from the guns-at-dawn climax of barry lyndon.
There is definitely a tension that Diaz cannot fathom between the deterministic end point his story is heading toward and everything else he wants to capture with such passion and anger about recent Philippine politics. A fatalistic predictability is established as we anticipate the two bad lieutenants in his story, as if Harvey Keitel and Nicolas Cage were adversaries in the same film, waiting and postponing the three-hour running time of the film for their confrontation. There is also a certain predictability seen through its embrace of narrative cliché, familiar from movies like Heatof these enemies as mirror images, always trying to outwit their reflections.
As prime movers in the country’s corrupt law enforcement, together they set out to fight a paranoid and pointless national “War on Drugs” in eternity, Hermes (John Lloyd Cruz) and Macabanty (Ronnie Lazarus) were tentative allies once: the former was a student and protégé of the latter, before helping to turn him in on corruption charges, belatedly discovering his moral compass. Once Macabanty gets a reprieve from his prison sentence, he seeks revenge on his former colleague (in the strongest echo of Dumas’s text), who is having a hard time as his skin disintegrates from psoriasis and he faces his death. own domestic abuse investigation. .
So, as that brief synopsis says, Diaz is quite talented at conveying utter, unrestrained bleakness, denying his leads any kind of moral identification from the audience, yet still making them compelling figures to watch as they feed their inner torment. And his knack for creepy, non-narrative detours is still in evidence, as we watch through our fingers as Macabanty performs wicked baptismal rituals on the sex workers she brings into a seedy hotel room. The narrative sweep of this film takes us slowly and consumes us, like a storm falling on an eerily deserted beach.
When the waves are gone is a co-production of the Philippines, France, Denmark and Portugal, starring Epicmedia Productions, Films Boutique, Rosa Filmes and Snowglobe Films. Its worldwide sales are handled by Films Boutique.