Inspired by Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s 1866 novel Crime and Punishment, Norte, the End of History is an equally epic, engrossing tale about the moral degradation of Fabian (Sid Lucero), a young radical ideologue who proclaims, “If we really want to clean up society, the solution is simple: kill all the bad elements.” Because of this conviction, a wealthy, heartless woman is murdered and an impoverished family is condemned to endless suffering. Bearing a striking resemblance to the young Ferdinand Marcos, who in the early 1970s placed the Philippines under nearly a decade of martial law and extended unprecedented power to himself, the character of Fabian provides fresh and timeless insights into today’s political discourse; despite the lessons of history, leaders with absolutist instincts continue to rise.
The most representative figure of what is often called slow cinema, Diaz is known for uncompromising films with extended running times—as long as eleven hours. Static and close-to-static long takes present an absorbing, panoramic view of Filipino life over time. Each of his films is a profound philosophical text about history, humanity, and morality. At 250 minutes, Norte is one of Diaz’s shorter works, but its vision is no less ambitious. At once a cautionary tale, an indictment of elites, and an expression of humanistic compassion, it is a masterpiece of cinema.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)