Viennale 2021: Sermons from the Stomach – Lav Diaz’s Historya ni Ha

Religious themes don’t expressly dominate but subtly adhere to Lav Diaz’s Historya ni Ha. The way the boundless, deep-focus images offer themselves to be inhabited by the pious protégés of a charismatic puritan invoke the idea that there is always enough space under God’s roof. A teenage boy who can’t sleep alone, a sprightly nun, an apprehensive sex worker and a water-loving carabao find shelter in the firm presence of Hernando, a ventriloquist and his puppet, Ha. Hernando retires, breaks his relationship with speech and decides to only communicate through his vivified companion. 

There is a populist appeal in Hernando’s artistry, the faith in emancipatory entertainment for a powerless audience but one that seems to be distant from the reality of his work. As a popular star, Hernando grew to experience performing mostly as a routine of pleasing and schmoozing with the corrupt and the heartless. It is suggested that he was involved in the crushed Huk movement, an anti-imperialist, communist uprising in the 1940s and 1950s. Yet, his quiet resentment is not political bitterness; in fact, he retains a belief in pedagogy and the force of exemplary behavior and well-meaning advice. Hernando’s reclusion from bodabil – the Philippine variation of vaudeville – is rather to halt the degrading self-exhibition on international tours and in luxurious ocean liners where his appreciation is the primitive laughter of drunken plutocrats. His return to the Philippines from the last barnstorming in Japan is marked by revelations that signify insecurity in the country’s future and his private life as well: president Ramón Magsaysay – a Messianistic figure in the national canon – dies in an air crash and Hernando’s fiancée marries a wealthy man to help her family. He sets out on a journey, passing through a landscape of constantly reshaping creeks and increasing mud. The mise-en-scène intensifies, lamps flicker, the sound falters, stray dogs enter the frame. Hernando wades in the menacing tempest, going after a modest and useful life, or just letting himself be absorbed by an internal dialogue about the thinker’s responsibility or the rain itself. Eventually he meets these fellow travelers in need who hope to get to an island full of gold. Taking the hand of a lady who tries to stay standing on high heels in the middle of sweeping flood and guarding a boy’s dreams are more urgent for Hernando than purging solitude. 

Sanctity and intellectual connotations feel both attached to him – he could write lyrical letters to his fiancée about how the dilemmas he discusses with and through Ha are mirrored Hermann Broch’s Der Tod des Vergil or how he feels attracted to the self-subjugation of the characters in Lev Tolstóy’s Voyna i mir

But Diaz’s form is much more sparing and classical than Broch’s and his protagonist appears much less of an ideal than Tolstóy’s ascetic aristocrats. 

Around Hernando’s enormous soul, there’s flesh and blood: we see him dirty and witty; we see him desire and hazard. 

With its kicking directness, traces of a vital, storming production, themes of traveling and gold, Historya ni Ha aligns well with Diaz’s work and there’s even a motific continuation from Lahi, hayop. Yet, his new film is often light and warm, revering the orientational skills of vagabonds, paying attention to the ceaselessly moving ears of a carabao and concluding with the relevance of education. Violence is also reduced – only in one moment of piercing stylistic intelligence, Diaz silences the film and shows barbarity in a discreet yet devastating montage. In the quiet, we can hear the atrocities from inside sharper than is bearable. 

In the end, Hernando becomes a teacher, a profession (or vocation) that was extensively looked at in this year’s Viennale. I’ve long struggled with the dominant (and unanimously positive) notion of education’s role in contemporary progressive discourse. The trust in social mobility easily forgets that even in the most helpful pedagogic environment, the concept’s success is dependent on talent and performance, virtues of a system that necessitates social mobility, which is beneficial for gifted individuals but leaves the existence of their original location within society untouched – thus it will be taken by someone new, for whom such ascent is impossible. 

Similarly to the other defining (and real-life) teacher in the festival’s selection, Dieter Bachmann from Maria Speth’s Herr Bachmann und seine Klasse, Hernando provides an alternative. Gold is not the solution, he says to the angelic teenager who wants to support his entire family from his adventure to the distant island. The objective of Hernando’s persistent, ritualistic incantation and teaching of – what I understood as – the alphabet isn’t to arm the children with tools for competition and prevalence. It’s laying the foundation of what can be learnt together, a worthwhile common knowledge, a set of references and values that holds people together and enables them to share experiences and imagine a future through similarly understood words. And for him, it’s coming back to life and speaking his own voice again, it’s the choice to be around people instead of getting lost in the woods.

Festina Lente: A Conversation about Lav Diaz

Over the last ten years Michael Guarneri has had a series of talks with Lav Diaz, gathering thoughts about the Filipino filmmaker’s craft, philosophy and politics. The result of these conversations has been published in Conversations with Lav Diaz (ISBN 9788864761022), available worldwide in January/February 2021. To celebrate Diaz’s birthday, to renew our pleasure in discussing cinema or just to make sure I receive a copy of this valuable book, Michael and I discussed some aspects of Diaz’s work via e-mail.

Michael, a few years ago you wrote me about your holy triumvirate in cinema: Pedro Costa, Lav Diaz and Wang Bing. I don’t know if this triumvirate is just one of those cinephile games we play, or a necessity to remember what is important in the midst of the storm of images. Can you tell me whether you find similarities in their work? For me, the three of them meet in a word that’s maybe used too much nowadays, a word like „resistance“.

Our memories are tricky sometimes, Patrick… I’m quite sure that I wrote you „holy trinity“… In any case, yes, Pedro Costa, Lav Diaz and Wang Bing are my three favorite filmmakers. In the past ten months I heard the word „resistance“ so much that it almost lost its meaning for me, so for now I would prefer to focus on another keyword, another meeting point between Costa, Diaz and Wang: freedom. I guess that I admire them so much first of all because of their freedom. We are talking about three men who understood their place in the world, and worked hard to reach a certain space, or niche, in which they can freely practice their craft or art or whatever you want to call it. Naturally they aren’t free in an absolute sense (who is, really?), but they have worked out their own strategies to tell the stories they want to tell the way they want to tell them. They worked very hard to achieve their freedom, and they are still working very hard to maintain it. First they struggled to get into the system, then they struggled to get out of the system, then they struggled to build their own system. You know, the means of production, the work relationships, the lonely work and the team work… This struggle for creative freedom is a never-ending source of inspiration for me. It’s something that goes beyond the single films they make, which I might like or dislike.

I understand what you mean, but I would still hesitate calling it „freedom“. I think that the world of film festivals is an industry with its own demands. Let’s take the case of Diaz, for example, a filmmaker with whom you had many talks for your new book Conversations with Lav Diaz. It’s incredible how Diaz comes out with a new film every year, almost like Woody Allen… Something has also changed in his filmmaking as far as I can tell, and this change came about at a moment when film festivals everywhere became vertically integrated key players for production, distribution and presentation. My question is: in your opinion, how far Diaz works inside this system, and how far he remains independent from it?

Yes, among other things, film festivals concerned with the idea of cinema as an art allow filmmakers like Diaz to convert symbolic capital into economic capital in order to produce new work. Some filmmakers work fast, like Diaz [but let’s not forget that it took him 10+ years to make Ebolusyon ng isang pamilyang Pilipino / Evolution of a Filipino Family (2004) and 15+ years to make Hele sa hiwagang hapis / A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery (2016); other filmmakers work more slowly, like Costa and Wang. As film critics, you and I also contribute to these capital transactions (if we want to believe that somebody actually reads what we write). Some filmmakers then take advantage of the rules of the film festival game (industry? market? circus?) to make the films they want to make; other filmmakers get caught in the rat race and start serving masters other than themselves. For me, Diaz belongs to the former category. Let me know what you think about this issue. In particular, as you are much more an expert than me on the film festival establishment, I’d be interested to know more about your sibylline sentence: „Something has also changed in his filmmaking as far as I can tell, and this change came about at a moment when film festivals everywhere became vertically integrated key players for production, distribution and presentation“. Afterwards, we can also discuss a key aspect that you mentioned: distribution. Sadly, film festivals are often the only distribution venue for Diaz’s films, which makes it difficult for him to speak to his fellow Filipinos about issues of Filipino history and identity.

Well, I wouldn’t call myself a film festival expert (and not even a film critic because I’m not sure if such a thing exists anymore). What I tried to hint at was just that I feel that with digitalization (or at least around the time of it) came a change in the world of festivals. First of all, the amount of festivals increased a lot and, step-by-step, their function also changed. The idea that they serve as a market where potential buyers can buy films to bring to the cinemas is now only a part of the whole enterprise. The festivals have become the buyers themselves, they give out funds (I think Diaz received some of those in Europe) and create a system that works in itself and takes a powerful position in the world of cinema independent of film theaters and streaming services. There are so many festivals that don’t choose the films but just take what the festival market dictates. Films „make the journey“. So, what maybe changed first of all was the visibility of Diaz’s films around the world. I don’t know whether you know or discussed with Diaz the amount of screenings his films have on average. I guess, it’s still too little and, as you say, there might be a gap between international audiences and the reception in the Philippines, but it must be different now than it was with Batang West Side (2001). I don’t think that any of us involved can work independently of the demands of the festival world. Each time filmmakers travel around the world to present their work, talk with sharks and lovers, meet different cultures, are sucked from vampires, receive praise or criticism based on terms sometimes foreign to their idea of cinema, they will change. It’s not an innocent business and in no way does it protect the art. Of course, there is also Diaz’s switch to digital, which might have brought changes to his cinema… at least in my perception. Maybe you can tell me a bit about the way he works with digital tools and whether you spoke about the changes that digital made for his cinema. After that, I might be able to continue with my argument. After all, Costa, Diaz and Wang are also connected by their liberating use of digital tools.

Yes, digital tools were so important for filmmakers like Costa, Diaz and Wang to „own the means of production“ (a very old expression, I know) and to cut out for themselves this little space of freedom, to create these small production units in the style of Dziga Vertov, Robert Flaherty, Jean Rouch, the „television“ Roberto Rossellini… But then again, yeah, you are right, these films that they make end up on the market (festival, theaters, DVD, streaming, whatever), so ultimately they are a merchandise. I guess that the next step in the struggle is to see what can be done after production, further along the chain… Now that almost everybody can make films, „the issue isn’t anymore that you can’t shoot“ (as Diaz likes to say). Now the „bottle neck“, or gatekeeping, is at the levels of distribution, promotion and exhibition. You need a lot of money to promote your film and inform people of its existence „in the midst of the storm of images“. People who, like Diaz, generally work with low budgets find themselves in the paradoxical situation of needing more money to promote the film than to make it. You can always find a way to make a film… but to get it seen, to get people interested and to reach them… well, that’s a tough job. That must be the reason why several film festivals hand out money prizes to be spent on promotion and distribution.

How does promotion for a filmmaker like Diaz work? Are we talking about keeping in touch with the „right people“? In my opinion the change in his filmmaking I was hinting at has to do with having created a sort of brand in an admittedly rather small section of „world cinema“ and the world of film festivals. In his films I find at the same time an urgency and sincerity concerning political issues and the dealing with the history of his country, and I can’t help experiencing those films as documentations of a bunch of friends meeting and acting something out… it’s almost a game, hence his trying out of very different genres and so on. Maybe that’s like in Jean Renoir’s best films and maybe it’s a form of art for which the bureaucracy and economics necessary to make it happen are valued as much as the actual work. In this regard I find Diaz to be exemplary of certain tendencies within film festivals that have replaced the idea of grand auteurs who disappear and reappear with a film immediately hailed as a work of art with a strange studio-like regularity of production. It’s strange because it’s done without or with very little money. Yet, somehow it works (which makes this system very suspicious in my opinion). Since you said that you don’t like every film but it’s about the whole work, maybe also the attitude of those filmmakers, I would be interested to learn about how you discovered the work of Diaz and what triggered you?

If you create something that you want a lot of people to engage with, you have two options (I’m going to simplify things a bit now, please bear with me). You can work little by little cultivating personal links with fellow-minded people to slowly spread the word about your work over the years until you eventually reach a critical mass and make a name for yourself; and/or you can pay Google, pay Facebook, pay clickfarms, pay all these advertising companies to put your work „on the radar“, to put your „product“ on people’s „priority list“. And while there are price listings for social media advertising, how can you assign a monetary value to friendship? How much should I pay you for being my friend and for kindly accepting to have a talk with me to promote on your website this or that book I wrote? I think you, I, Diaz and his team are people who prefer to work with personal relations, an immaterial economy, but an economy just the same, because it takes time and resources to cultivate a friendship, a dialogue over the years (especially considering that the other option – the paid advertisement one – is much simpler and possibly more effective in the short term). But I feel we are dangerously close to that moment in which I start to complain about how dreadful the world we live/work in is and how much nicer it would be if we created a commune somewhere… Luckily you asked me about my first meeting with Diaz’s cinema and I can keep misery at bay by taking refuge in good memories. Back in 2007-2008 I began to get interested in Diaz’s cinema because the Italian State TV was broadcasting his films all night long during the weekends: Heremias: Unang aklat – Ang alamat ng prinsesang bayawak / Heremias: Book One – The Legend of the Lizard Princess (2006), Kagadanan sa banwaan ning mga engkanto / Death in the Land of Encantos (2007) and Melancholia (2008). They were broadcast as part of a program called „Fuori Orario“ („After Hours“, like the Martin Scorsese film), a kind of cinephile heaven that contributed a lot to my cinema education ever since I learned how to use a VHS recorder. So I watched these three films by Diaz and I was struck by the fact that they didn’t look like any other film I had seen before. The idea of style was very important to me back then: „style“ as in „stilus“, meaning the pen and the hand that holds the pen and uses it in a distinctive, unique way… I was a teenager back then and I felt a lot of sympathy and admiration for whoever was willing to do his/her own thing with art, be it music, painting, writing, cinema… So, instinctively, ever since the very beginning, just by watching the films without knowing anything about anything, I felt a lot of respect for Diaz because his movies told me that he was a guy who didn’t care, a guy who was going his own way, „seul contre tous“… Then, of course, I watched all the other movies by Diaz, I studied a lot, and I understood a lot more about Diaz’s films and their meaning… That’s when I discovered the other etymology of the word „style“, connecting „style“ to „stilo“, the dagger, i.e. to the idea of using the pen, the camera, the brush, whatever, as a knife, to open wounds, to slit open people’s eyes and make them see…

I like those two meanings of „style“. Maybe we can add a third one (even if that will ultimately lead us back to thoughts about the commune): style as a form of addressing somebody (with a title), to give a name to something. I think this relates to what I tried to say earlier about Diaz’s films. There is a sort of laziness among the film community and it shows as soon a director develops or changes. I have no empirical proof, but I feel that most of the texts written about Diaz today could have been written twenty years ago. So I think that his cinema is partly well-bedded in something that he doesn’t do anymore. There are certain automatisms in reception and this casts quite a shadow of indifference over his cinema. It’s the new film by Diaz and not a film showing or slitting open something. I don’t think it’s his mistake at all because his films change, he might be much more open to trying out different things than other filmmakers of his age and intensity. However, if you meet his films in the festival world, they have become a product, a „style“, and I wonder how to escape this?

The filmmaker as a brand, I understand what you mean. Yesterday I was taking part in an online conference about Italian cinema and there was an excellent paper presentation about Italian neorealism becoming a sort of brand in 1940s-1950s French film criticism: first there was the duo Vittorio De Sica – Roberto Rossellini; then the worship of Rossellini began; then, when Rossellini fell out of favor, some French critics tried to build a new „virginity“ for neorealism by focusing on the writer Cesare Zavattini… I’m simplifying things just to give a quick example, of course… but that’s the way things go in cinema. Especially now that cinema has lost its mass appeal and there are a million other things you can do in your spare time: you have to keep people „hooked“, and the filmmaker as a brand is one of the strategies to build „customer loyalty“. I don’t know if we (you, I and all our fellow critics) can escape this, but for sure we can be attentive spectators, ask in-depth questions to filmmakers, write with passion and accuracy, do our part to „elevate the discourse“ and fight laziness. We will probably fail to change the „system“, but people will say good things about us when we will be dead. On a more cheerful note, I’m curious to know: how about your first meeting with Diaz’s cinema?

My first meeting with Diaz’s cinema must have been a screening of Batang West Side at the Austrian Film Museum. As I understand, this institution has a very special relation to Diaz and especially to this film. The Austrian Film Museum screened a film copy, 35mm, and not unlike you, my first sensation was one of pure inspiration. I felt that cinema is a medium with which you can do everything. After this first encounter, I watched several of his films at home on horrible-looking files, but the sensation was the same. Then, there were one or two screenings at the Viennale: Norte, hangganan ng kasaysayan / Norte, the End of History (2013) must have been one of those, and I vividly remember seeing A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery at the Filmfest Hamburg. I was equipped like a mountaineer with food and drinks and I didn’t miss a single second of the film. There have always been these discussions (partly inspired by some of Diaz’s own statements) that it’s actually fine to go out, fall asleep and so on. I never agreed and I especially don’t agree with regards to his films in which a lot of things are going on plotwise. After the 485 minutes of A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery I drove my car for 7 hours and I didn’t get tired one time. Even if I’d like to say that the reason for this must have been my youth, I think that it has to do with Diaz’s style… I felt that he changed my perception of things. Now, I don’t think it’s very hard to do that in 485 minutes, we could say that time works on those things all alone, but with him there is an embrace of time (of its horror as well as its indifference) instead of a theoretical attempt that tries to highlight it. In relation to that, I’d be interested in your initial feeling that he is someone „who doesn’t care“. I want to know how this in your opinion relates to his dealing with time and/or with some technical „mistakes“ (I hate to use that word).

There aren’t many artists like Diaz around. Artists who have that inner calm and wisdom and courage to pursue their own vision no matter what other people think. At the same time, he is a man possessed by a desire to communicate with his fellow human beings, to really make them think, make them reason, make them remember, before it’s too late, before the light dies out and there can be no cinema anymore. From these clashes between the personal and the collective, and between the slow tempo and the urgency, is born a kind of cinema that I find quite unique. And I love it so much precisely because of its fundamental imperfection: too much wind in the microphone, a shaky handheld camera… In all these „mistakes“ I see the struggle – Diaz’s particular struggle as an artist and as a Filipino, and perhaps a more general reminder of „the inadequacies of our plans, our contingencies, every missed train and failed picnic, every lie to a child“. Have you ever heard of the Latin motto „festina lente“, „make haste slowly“? It’s such a wonderful description of Diaz’s cinema, and of my experience of it. It was so great to read your sentence „After the 485 minutes of A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery I drove my car for 7 hours and I didn’t get tired one time“. Every time I come out of a Diaz screening I feel energized, I feel like I’m ready to smash the whole world.

This fundamental imperfection reminds me a bit of early sound films when you can hear the sound of the dolly. When „mistakes“ occur in Diaz’s films I’m always trying to find out what made him keep that specific shot. In some way it helps to change my focus on the acting, or on a tree moving in a peculiar way, and I remember why cinema exists: maybe not in order to make a perfect shot but to see something. A lot of filmmakers I admire have a much more perfectionist attitude. Let’s take Hou Hsiao-hsien, for example. Everything is much more controlled and smoother. Nevertheless there is a similar interest which moves somewhere between capturing something in the world and being captured by something in the world. In both cases the effect is a sort of floating of image and sound that gives me freedom to see, to hear, to think, to feel, to be. „Festina lente“ sounds just perfect. Yet, we shouldn’t forget that the haste is about something. I feel that there is great anger in his films and a desire to speak to the present moment of his country or even more universally such as in Lahi, Hayop / Genus Pan (2020), which among other things also reflects on humanity in a more general sense. I wanted to ask you about cultural gaps in the perception of cinema. Do you think they exist and how do you deal with them?

I do think that cultural gaps in the reception, or perception, of films exist. Yet, at the same time, cinema has this power to connect with you, to communicate with you in spite of language and other cultural barriers. Back in 2011 I saw Kotoko (2011) by Shinya Tsukamoto at the Venice Film Festival and I was too tired that morning and I had a massive headache, so I watched the film without reading the subtitles. That’s the best way to see Kotoko: it’s such a primal and direct film, no words needed. And back in 2011 at the Venice Film Festival there was a bit of mumbling among the „Western“ critics about Kotoko because one of the main characters suddenly disappears from the movie, no explanation given at any point in the film. It’s something that doesn’t generally happen in „Western“ movies, or if it happens there is a highbrow, „intellectual justification“ (see Michelangelo Antonioni, Alain Robbe-Grillet, etcetera). It just doesn’t happen „like that“, „as if it was normal“. Somebody asked Tsukamoto about it at a press conference, because the disappearance of the character was so deliberate and everyone of „us“ thought that there must be some profound meaning, something that was maybe specifically Japanese, some hidden metaphor, something about Japanese history or theater or poetry or painting… but Tsukamoto just said: „Sometimes the people that are important to you simply disappear from your life“. I think that it’s important to watch movies, to pay attention, to articulate questions, to ask questions (even if we are afraid to appear a bit stupid by asking)… so we can discover new things and „fill the gap“. I mean, films are interesting for what they show/tell us, but also for what they don’t show/tell us. Films sometimes give us „homework“ to do… I love that. I remember back in 2016, after the gala screening of Ang babaeng humayo / The Woman Who Left (2016) at the Venice Film Festival, I was hanging out with Diaz and his team in the festival bar. Diaz was discussing with some of his crew and actors. I couldn’t understand what they were saying because they were speaking in Tagalog but it seemed to be something important, so afterwards I asked what the problem was. It turned out that somebody from the festival had tweaked the English subtitles of The Woman Who Left to explain the meaning of the word „balot“, which Diaz left untranslated on purpose so that the curious spectator would do some research on his/her own…

Is there an educational purpose for foreign audiences in Diaz’s films?

Being the son of two school teachers, Diaz is certainly using cinema for educational purposes, for his fellow Filipinos and for any person in the world who is interested in the history/culture of the Philippines and in the struggle of the Filipino people against colonialism, exploitation, authoritarianism, poverty and corruption. And, after all, isn’t the struggle of the Filipino people the struggle of most people in the world? Colonized people who have been exploited for centuries find „independence“ under the aegis of a neocolonial power, which leads to a kleptocrat dictatorship… You can find similar situations in most of South-East Asia, in most of the African continent, in Central and South America… I’m simplifying things perhaps, but Diaz himself is conscious of the worldwide outreach of his cinema. The leftwing rebel Renato in Melancholia is fighting for a specific cause relating to Filipino politics and yet, in his dying moments, he isn’t thinking about the Philippines alone, he is thinking about the whole picture: „Why is there so much sadness and too much sorrow in this world? Is happiness just a concept? Is living just a process to measure man’s pain?” That’s the beginning of one of the greatest monologues in the history of cinema, for me. In Genus Pan, as you mentioned, this world outreach is even more evident: the whole matter of being human is put into question. The film is set in a remote mining area in the Philippines, but it could well be set in the fields of Italy where both Italian and immigrant people are exploited to pick tomatoes for one Euro per hour. You can choose your own examples, I chose an Italian example because Genus Pan had its world premiere in Italy… Do you remember that old revolutionary slogan, „Let’s create two, three, many Vietnams“? With my writings I would like to inspire people and create ten, one hundred, one thousand Lav Diaz…

Viennale 2018: Unsere hohen Lichter

Patrick Holzapfel


8 films (non American)
Ni De Lian by Tsai Ming-liang
Gang-byun Hotel by Hong Sang-soo
Îmi este indiferent daca în istorie vom intra ca barbari by Radu Jude
Beoning by Lee Chang-dong
I Diari di Angela – Noi Due Cineasti by Yervant Gianikian & Angela Ricci Lucchi
Den‘ Pobedy by Sergei Loznitsa
Lazzaro felice by Alice Rohrwacher
Mues by Daniel Nehm

weitere Hinweise aus dem Programm: Gewächshäuser anzünden, die Kamera ausschalten, vor der Kamera einschlafen, Agamben lesen, mehr über Pflanzen lernen, ein Feuer im Wald löschen, ins Eis einbrechen, über das Lesen sprechen, Hunde ins Weltall schießen, einen Hubschrauber beobachten, Sand ins Meer schütten, die Kamera einschalten, Bruno Dumont vermissen, im Schnee spazieren, Stalin-Hunde nicht ins All schießen, sich über zu laute Kameras aufregen, mehr lesen, mehr schauen, nackt tanzen, sich nicht berühren und Rollen spielen.

Patricks Texte

Îmi este indiferent daca în istorie vom intra ca barbari
Ni De Lian
High Life
Le Livre d’Image
The Other Side
I Diari di Angela – Noi Due Cineasti
Minervini & Rohrwacher

Le livre d'image von Jean-Luc Godard


Andrey Arnold

I watched Burning a second time.

Andreys Texte

The B-Film
Lazzaro felice
The House that Jack Built


Ivana Miloš

Two by Two.

I Diari di Angela – Noi Due Cineasti by Yervant Gianikian, Angela Ricci Lucchi

A film as much testimony as it is watercolor drawings, mapping two lives and their paths across the world and its archives. Always in the midst of reinterpretation, led by curiosity and a desire for work. An infinite diary bringing Yervant back from the flames and Angela back to life. A work and act of love.

O termómetro de Galileu by Teresa Villaverde

Togetherness caught in the green garden belonging to filmmaker Tonino De Bernardi and Mariella, his wife. Stories told over eggs and cheese bought from the neighbour, forgotten backpacks, grandchildren studying and, even more so, learning. Intimate storytelling from the back seat of the car on the way home: a zephyr of recognition.


Îmi este indiferent daca în istorie vom intra ca barbari by Radu Jude

How smart and unassuming, daring and stunning, side-splittingly funny and deeply unsettling can a single film be? This is cinema doing, in the act of doing, undoing and redoing. When did we leave off history? Who remembers what we are doing today? And, most importantly, what does all this go to say?

What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? by Roberto Minervini

White feathers surrounding black faces at the Mardi Gras dance and the New Black Panthers, fists held up high in protest, demanding justice for all, once and for all. Filming a world that is not his own, Minervini follows Ronaldo and Titus, fourteen and nine years old, as its future. Their games inhabit and enliven the streets, but when they have to head home before dark, a childhood dream collapses into reality.

Lazzaro felice by Alice Rohrwacher

Lazzaro between worlds, Lazzaro as a magical word, Lazzaro joining and showing us the in(di)visible, Rohrwacher opening up the immense space of culture and history as easily as if it were her backyard. We draw our humanity from these waters. Let us plumb them kindly.

Ahlat Ağacı by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Like a long book read before going to bed, a cushion and a house at once, the film wraps itself around the pear trees, the landscape and the apartment a family hides and reveals itself in. Its protagonist, aspiring writer Sinan, petulant and aggravating to no end, tries his hand at moving us and sometimes succeeds.

Jiang hu er nv by Jia Zhangke

China evolving over years and genres, as jianghu meets melodrama and transformations wait around every corner – it’s just that those corners may be very far apart and time is another powerful force to be reckoned with.

A Land Imagined by Yeo Siew Hua

Land reclamation contributes to the imaginary of a world brought up on itself, feeding on itself and the darkness of multiple planes of existence. Nightmares and dreams confide in each other in this unique stream of a film noir.

More on: Lazzaro felice


Rainer Kienböck

Der erste Film, den ich auf der Viennale 2018 gesehen habe war Lazzaro Felice von Alice Rohrwacher. Als ich das Gartenbaukino nach der Vorstellung am Donnerstagnachmittag verlassen habe, schoss mir ein Gedanken durch den Kopf: „Besser wird es nicht mehr“. Für einen kurzen Moment dachte ich mir, es wäre jetzt vielleicht angebracht, die Viennale Viennale sein zu lassen und einfach aufzuhören. Denn Rohrwacher hat hier abermals einen unglaublich dichten, betont aber nicht aufdringlich politischen, und visuell herausragenden Film gemacht. Lazzaro Felice ist poetisch und magisch, aber zugleich in einer harschen Lebenswelt verankert: präzise Sozialstudie trifft surrealistische Phantastik. Und doch fühlt sich diese Welt, in der so unwirkliche Dinge passieren, nie fremd an – eine Eigenschaft, die schon Rohrwachers Le Meraviglie ausgezeichnet hat. Als Eröffnungsfilm für die erste Ausgabe des Festivals unter der neuen Festivalleiterin Eva Sangiorgi auf jeden Fall eine ausgezeichnete Wahl.

Ich habe dann nach Lazzaro Felice natürlich doch weitergeschaut. Im Nachhinein gesehen auch die bessere Wahl, denn es gab – wie nicht anders zu erwarten – noch eine Menge weiterer herausragender Filme zu sehen. Bereits am Folgetag war meine These, dass es nicht besser werden könne, bereits widerlegt. Da wurde abends nämlich Ang panahon ng halimaw von Lav Diaz gezeigt. Es geht, wie so oft bei Diaz, um die philippinische Militärdiktatur in den 70er Jahren. Man sieht monochrome Aufnahmen ländlicher Gebiete, in denen die Schergen des Regimes ihr Unwesen treiben und die Zivilbevölkerung drangsalieren. Lange statische Szenen zeigen den Niedergang einer Gruppe lose miteinander verbundener Menschen, die Widerstand ausüben. Wo Diaz von seinen bisherigen Filmen deutlich abweicht, ist die Inszenierung der Dialoge – diese werden nämlich vollständig als Gesang vorgetragen. Damit ist Ang panahon ng halimaw rein technisch wohl ein Musical. Allerdings keines der Sorte Rodgers und Hammerstein. Sondern eine düstere Elegie auf die dunklen Seiten des menschlichen Zusammenlebens. Was auf den ersten Blick betrachtet eigentlich zu einer größeren Distanzierung zum Geschehen führen sollte, hatte bei mir den gegenteiligen Effekt – Ang panahon ng halimaw hat mich emotional stärker gepackt, als Diaz‘ bisherigen Filme. Neben der wie üblich phänomenalen Bildgestaltung, hat Lav Diaz nun also bewiesen, dass er ein äußerst fähiger Komponist und Songwriter ist.

Apropos Emotionalität: Ich halte Histoire(s) du cinéma von Jean-Luc Godard für ein zentrales Werk der Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts (eine Meinung, mit der ich nicht allein dastehe), aber seine monumentale Serie funktioniert in erster Linie auf intellektueller Ebene. Man erfreut sich an der totalen Überforderung des Verstandes, wenn einen Godard mit Bildern, Tönen, Worten der Kunst-, Film-, Politgeschichte überhäuft. Le Livre d’image ist dem stellenweise nicht unähnlich. Auch hier verliert sich der Intellekt in der Schichtung der Referenzen, Fakten, Sinneseindrücke. Doch in zumindest zwei Punkten unterscheidet sich der neue Film Godards von seiner Serie. Einerseits zielen sie nicht so sehr auf Zeitlosigkeit ab – die Bilder und Worte in Livre d’image haben weitaus mehr mit der (medialen) Gegenwart zu tun als in Histoire(s) du cinéma und andererseits greifen einen die dazwischengeschobenen Schockbilder aus dieser medialen Gegenwart immer wieder auf emotionaler Ebene an, was dem Intellekt eine kurze Atempause gibt. Die verstandesmäßige Überforderung wird unterbrochen durch emotionale Überforderung – eine inszenatorische Strategie, der ich eine Menge abgewinnen konnte.

Während Eva Sangiorgi in bester Hurch-Manier ein Best-of des Festivaljahres zusammengestellt hat, durfte sich Haden Guest um die filmische Verköstigung der Retrospektiven-Besucher kümmern, die traditionell in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Österreichischen Filmmuseum stattfand. Obwohl ich den Großteil des Festivals damit verbracht habe, aktuelle Filme anzusehen, die es wahrscheinlich nicht ins reguläre Kino schaffen werden, blieb dennoch die Zeit für ein paar Besuche bei der Retrospektive, die sich dieses Jahr um Hollywood B-Filme drehte. Während man mit diesem Begriff gemeinhin ästhetische Zuschreibungen verbindet (niedrige production values, sichtbare Improvisation, Imperfektion), orientierte sich Guest eher an einer anderen Definition des B-Films. Nämlich jener der produktionsgeschichtlichen Verhältnisse, in denen die jeweiligen Filme entstanden. Zu sehen waren folglich weniger die durch Camp und zelebrierte Schlampigkeit geprägten Filme vieler Poverty Row-Studios, sondern in erster Linie die sauber, aber bescheidener produzierten Filme der großen Studios, die damals als Vorfilm für die Prestigeproduktionen gemacht wurden. So ist zu erklären, dass es ein Double Feature bestehend aus Armored Car Robbery und The Narrow Margin (beide von Richard Fleischer Anfang der 50er für RKO) ins Programm geschafft haben. Beides sind bis zum Anschlag verdichtete Film Noirs, die man auch mit dem Terminus Thriller versehen könnte. Kurz zusammengefasst: Einer der besten Heist-Filme und einer der besten Zug-Filme, die ich je gesehen habe, in einem Double Feature. Nicht alle Filme der Retrospektive konnten da mithalten, aber glücklicherweise läuft die Wiederholung der Schau ja noch bis Anfang Dezember weiter, sodass man noch ein paar mehr Entdeckungen machen kann.

Rainers Texte

Her Smell
Roi Soleil
Alice T.


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In My Room

Around the World in 14 Films: The Woman Who Left von Lav Diaz

The Woman Who Left von Lav Diaz

Seit dem Gewinn des Goldenen Löwen bei den Filmfestspielen in Venedig mit The Woman Who Left ist Lav Diaz einer größeren Öffentlichkeit bekannt. Die Zeiten, in denen er unter einer kleinen, cinephilen Anhängerschaft als Geheimtipp galt, sind somit vorbei. Darf man in solchen Fällen stutzig werden, misstrauisch sein ob der Aufmerksamkeit und des Lobs vonseiten einer Branche, die sich jahrelang herzlich wenig um diese Filme geschert hat? Muss man fürchten, dass ein solcher Preis nur zu gewinnen ist, wenn ein Filmemacher seine Kompromisslosigkeit aufgibt? Ist bei Diaz eine Tendenz festzustellen, wie man sie bei manchen Cannes-Dauerbrennern, wie den Gebrüdern Dardenne in ihren letzten Filmen gesehen und gespürt hat?

Zweifel schienen möglicherweise berechtigt, doch The Woman Who Left weiß sie zu entkräften. Das Filmschaffen von Lav Diaz hat sich in den letzten Jahren etwas verändert, seine Filme lassen sich einfacher in einer konkreten Raumzeit verorten, die Erzählungen wirken oftmals gestraffter und nehmen sich weniger Zeit zu mäandern; sie sind nun einfacher auf einzelne Aussagen oder ihre „politische Relevanz“ reduzierbar. Trotz allem kann man Diaz schwer vorwerfen, dass er sich der Logik einer Marktförmigkeit unterwirft, zu sehr betont er auch in The Woman Who Left die filmische Dauer, in der sich seine Erzählungen entfalten, zu frei und unvorhersehbar bewegen sich seine Figuren, zu fein die Bruchlinien, die sich aus dem Driften des Films ergeben; alles Qualitäten, die sich schon in seinen früheren Filmen finden.

The Woman Who Left von Lav Diaz

Es ist schwierig über die Filme von Diaz zu schreiben; das Schreiben scheint der Monumentalität nie gerecht zu werden. Das bezieht sich nicht nur auf die Laufzeit, sondern auch auf die politische Dimension seiner filmischen Arbeit und vor allem auf die Haltung zu den Bildern und zur Welt, die durch den Film transponiert wird – der Glaube daran, dass auch im Kino ein Davor und ein Danach existieren, dass das Leben (und das Leben ist auch die kleinste Zelle der Geschichtsschreibung) mit all seinen Konfrontationen und Konsequenzen berücksichtigt werden muss, auch wenn es gerade nicht im Bild zu sehen ist; und der Umkehrschluss – das gerade die Randgestalten der Geschichte, die marginalen Vorkommnisse des Lebens oft mehr über die Ereignisse Bescheid wissen, als das kondensierte Spektakel (die Grundfigur des kommerziellen Kinos). Es bleibt mir nur eine Flucht zu den eben genannten Momenten, eine Flucht ins Beispielhafte, ein lückenhaftes Aufzählen subjektiver Empfindungen und Beobachtungen, ein Versuch Emotionen zu teilen. Fern von dem Punkt alle Filme von Diaz zu kennen, aber mittlerweile mit seinem Werk einigermaßen vertraut, stellt sich bei mir bei jedem seiner Filme ein Gefühl von Vertrautheit ein. Diese Vertrautheit ist eng an wiederkehrende Motive und Bildtypen gekoppelt, die – wie auch zum Beispiel die immer gleichen weißen Lettern auf schwarzem Grund in den Filmen von Woody Allen  – zu einem Proust’schen Rückerinnern führen. Ein Gefühl von Nähe macht sich dann bemerkbar, von Vertrautheit, von Mitwisserschaft. Natürlich ist dieses Gefühl nicht exklusiv den Filmen von Lav Diaz vorbehalten, sondern hat wohl insgesamt mit der Erfahrung von Kunst zu tun, wie sie, für den filmischen Diskurs, vor allem von den großen passeurs beschrieben und vorgelebt wurde.

Ein Gefühl des Miteinanders, der Teilhabe, entsteht. Zunächst ist das ganz pragmatisch gedacht: Für vier, acht oder zehn Stunden verbringt man Zeit im Kinosaal mit einer (meist überschaubaren) Anzahl anderer Kinogänger und mit den Bildern auf der Leinwand. Darüber hinaus tritt man selbst in die Welt ein, beobachtet parallel zur Kamera das Geschehen, entdeckt Gerüche, Geschmäcker, findet Freunde, Seelenverwandte, arbeitet, feiert – man wird selbst zum Film. Es geschieht eine Menge Dinge in dieser Zeit, denen man mal intensiver, mal weniger intensiv folgt; und wie im echten Leben, ist man kaum in der Lage die Übersicht über alle Vorkommnisse zu behalten, um sie im Anschluss in chronologischer Reihenfolge aufzuführen. Einen Film von Lav Diaz zu sehen, oder besser, zu erfahren, ist wie das Treiben, in einem Fluss, der mal aufgestaut wird, mal abebbt, aber immer weiterfließt, bis man irgendwann aus ihm steigt und in eine Welt zurückkehrt, der die Monochromie fehlt.

The Woman Who Left von Lav Diaz

Dschungeldickicht: Nur schwer findet sich das Auge im schwarzweißen Wirrwarr der Ranken, Sträucher, Bäume und Blätter zurecht. Das Schwarzweiß gepaart mit gestochen-scharfer Digitaloptik lässt das Bild flächig erscheinen. Ohne Anhaltspunkt und ohne Bewegung ist es schwer unterschiedliche Bildebenen wahrzunehmen. Für einige Sekunden steht der Dschungel meist für sich, bis es im Unterholz zu rascheln beginnt, und sich über irgendeinen verborgenen Pfad Menschen ins Bild bewegen. Durch ihre Bewegung gewinnt das Tableau an Tiefe, die Orientierung fällt leichter, das Suchbildrätsel löst sich auf. Dieses Bildmotiv kommt in The Woman Who Left nur ein einziges Mal vor (wenn mich meine Erinnerung nicht trügt), erinnert aber sofort an ähnliche Inszenierungen der philippinischen Landschaft in Filmen wie From What Is Before oder A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery, die in weniger urbanem Terrain spielen.

Eine einsame Straßenlaterne erleuchtet ein Stück Straße. Im harten Licht der Laterne werfen die stehenden, sitzenden, kauernden Gestalten am Straßenrand harte Schatten. Im Dunkel der Nacht unterhalten sich die Gestalten, albern herum, streiten. In den Gesprächspausen breitet sich nächtliche Stille aus, unterbrochen von fernen Motorengeräuschen und zirpenden Insekten. Die Zeit dehnt sich in diesen Momenten, denn in der Nacht fällt die Hektik des Tages ab. Unter Straßenlaternen verhandeln Lav Diaz‘ Protagonisten den weiteren Verlauf ihrer Geschichte, unter Straßenlaternen verbringen sie Zeit miteinander. Die Nacht ist hier keine Zeit düsterer Stimmung, keine Zeit der letzten Entscheidungen, keine Zeit des Grusels, sondern ein unaufgeregter Teil des Lebens, dazu geeignet neue Bekanntschaften zu machen, intime Gesprächssituationen herbeizuführen und sich in der Dunkelheit seiner Isolation zu erfreuen. In The Woman Who Left sind es die Szenen zwischen Horacia und dem buckligen Straßenverkäufer, wie sie am Straßenrand unter Laternenlicht sitzen, die am stärksten das Gefühl der gelassenen Beobachtung evozieren, so wie auch schon die Szenen in den Winternächten New Jerseys in Batang West Side, die irgendwann zu Zugehörigkeit und Vertrautheit wird.

Es ist somit unerheblich, ob The Woman Who Left kürzer und stringenter ist als andere von Diaz‘ Filmen, denn das entscheidende Gefühl der Vertrautheit, des Mit-dem-Film-seins, das ich versucht habe zu skizzieren, stellt sich auch hier ein. Trotz dieses Gefühls, kommt es mir nicht so vor, als würde ich die Regeln dieser Welt vollständig kennen, als könnte ich aus den gezeigten Welteindrücken, die oft eine täuschend getreue Wiedergabe der Realität suggerieren, ein Denksystem ableiten, eine einheitliche Idee von Humanismus dechiffrieren. Der Sog der Vertrautheit ist ein anderer, als jener der Massenmedien, die mich betäuben und mit einer fertigen Botschaft impfen wollen. Es geht hier weniger um eine Deutung (zumindest um keine, die im Vorhinein festgelegt ist), als um die Geste des Zeigens. Darin liegt dann vielleicht auch die (politische wie filmpolitische) Haltung von Diaz, mit der sich erklären lässt, weshalb Szenen an- und auslaufen dürfen, weshalb das Bild selten durch Unschärfen oder Kamerabewegung korrumpiert wird, weshalb die Alltäglichkeit eine vergleichsweise wichtige Rolle spielt – es ist seine Form der Kritik an anderen medialen Darstellungsformen und Bewegtbildinszenierungen. Ist The Woman Who Left etwas zugänglicher, an manchen Stellen vielleicht sogar deutlicher? Ganz bestimmt. Ist Lav Diaz deshalb von seinem Weg abgekommen? Meiner Einschätzung nach ist er das nicht. Vielmehr hat er etwas Anderes entwickelt, das dem Geist seiner früheren Arbeiten entsprungen ist, sie in eine andere Richtung lenkt, aber nicht verrät.

Berlinale 2016: Love Diaz

El Buzo von Esteban Arrangoiz
  • Bevor ich einige Worte über den neuen Film von Lav Diaz verliere, noch ein paar kurze Bemerkungen zum Kurzfilmprogramm „Berlinale Shorts I“, das mit einer erstaunlich hohen Trefferquote an guten Filmen aufwartete. Drei der fünf Filme des Programms scheinen mir besonders erwähnenswert: Zum einen Siegfried A. Fruhaus Vintage Print, der in bester Flickerfilm-Tradition die Netzhäute des Publikums an ihre Leistungsgrenzen bringt (es ist meist ein gutes Zeichen, wenn ein Film im Programm mit Epilepsiewarnung angekündigt wird); zum anderen Ben Russells He Who Eats Children, der sich spielerisch mit einer lokalen Legende eines afrikanischen Dorfs auseinandersetzt. Dort wird ein weißer Mann bezichtigt Kinder zu essen und Russell begibt sich halb investigativ, halb augenzwinkernd mit ethnografischem Blick auf die Suche nach dem Ursprung dieses Mythos; zuletzt konnte mich Esteban Arrangoiz‘ El Buzo überzeugen. Der Film folgt dem Arbeitstag eines Tauchers, der in Mexiko City für die Wartung von Abwasserkanälen zuständig ist und vereint dabei erfrischende Neugier, eine gesunde Portion Komik und formale Experimentierfreude.
Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis von Lav Diaz

Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis von Lav Diaz

  • Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis ist ein Koloss, soviel ist sicher, und das nicht nur wegen seiner acht Stunden Laufzeit. Es dauert sicher noch einige Zeit, bis ich den Film vollständig verarbeitet habe, aber zweifellos zählt er zu den besten Filmen des Festivals und schon jetzt zu einem der Highlights des aktuellen Kinojahres. Unfassbar was Diaz aus den Möglichkeiten der digitalen Bilderproduktion herausholt. Diese hat bekanntlich Schwierigkeiten in der Darstellung von Grauabstufungen und von tiefschwarzen Tönen, doch Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis widersetzt sich dieser Feststellung. Die sorgsam komponierten Bilder übertragen die Farben des Dschungels in zahllose Nuancen zwischen Weiß und Schwarz, üppiges Blätterwerk lässt die Tableaus zu Bilderrätseln werden, mal neigen sie zur zweidimensionalen Flächigkeit, mal konstruiert Diaz durch elaborierte Belichtung des Bildhintergrunds vielschichtige, dreidimensionale Räume. All das ist kein plumper Ästhetizismus, sondern entspringt dem Umgang mit den lokalen Begebenheiten und der speziellen Inszenierungsweise von Diaz. In gewohnt langen, gemächlichen Einstellungen erzählt Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis von der Philippinischen Revolution Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts. Dabei konzentriert er sich nicht auf die Helden des Aufstands selbst, sondern beschäftigt sich mit der Frage, wie es weitergeht, wenn die Revolution und ihre Kinder niedergeschlagen sind. Die Witwe des Revolutionsführers Andres Bonifacio begibt sich auf die Suche nach dessen Leichnam, das letzte Gedicht des Vordenkers José Rizal wird zur Inspiration für den jungen Intellektuellen Isagani. Man verbringt sehr lange Zeit mit diesen Figuren und ihren Geschichten, wenn die Dauer eines ermöglicht, dann ist es ein Gefühl der Zugehörigkeit. Nach acht Stunden will man das es einfach weitergeht, wie auch das Leben einfach weitergeht, danach über den Film zu schreiben macht ein Überwinden des Trennungsschmerzes unmöglich: Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis ist ein Film der tiefe Wunden schlägt.
    Einziger Wermutstropfen: Die Untertitel hätte man nochmal Korrekturlesen sollen.
  • Nach Diaz war noch nicht Feierabend für mich: Volker Koepp zählt zur langen Liste von DEFA-Alumni, die sich vor allem in jener filmischen Form hervorgetan haben, die man gemeinhin als dokumentarisch bezeichnet. In minutiösen Studien hat er sich vor allem kinematografisch vernachlässigten Gebieten Deutschlands gewidmet. Für Landstück hat er sich zum bereits dritten Mal in seiner Karriere in die Uckermark begeben, einer landwirtschaftlich geprägten Region nordöstlich von Berlin. Das Hauptanliegen des Films scheint es zu sein, sich für ökologische Landwirtschaft starkzumachen und auf die Gefahren des Artensterbens hinzuweisen. Gerade noch so kratzt Koepp die Kurve, um nicht vollends zur Öko-Predigt und Glorifizierung von Aussteigertum abzukippen, insgesamt sind die anderen Aspekte des Films ohnehin interessanter: einerseits die Interviews mit einer Runde älterer Damen, die die landwirtschaftliche Entwicklungsgeschichte der Gegend beschreiben und andererseits die ausgiebigen Landschaftsaufnahmen, die als Einschübe rein ihrem ästhetischen Selbstzweck dienen.