My first time with Lav Diaz. Do wish I hadn’t ignored his recent, mostly concluded Mubi retrospective.
With Shoah this is perhaps the most distressing film I have ever seen but one that touches Tarr and Tarkovsky for breathless weight in the camera’s unflinching gaze.
(An almost unspeakable plot: Florentina Hubaldo (remember the name), a Filipino girl torn away from now resurgent memories of towns and carnivals to a secluded rural hell of prostitution and domestic violence at the hands of a toxic father whose onscreen presence evokes the kind of thick terror and hatred that we felt for Fiennes’ Amon Göth.)
Her titular psychological condition, producing splitting headaches and memory loss, both shackles her to her tiny world and ultimately provides the film’s redemptive upturn (buried though it is under a total nadir of suffering and pity): her struggle is at least in part to become homo narrans, testifier to her own story.
This positions Diaz alongside the central figure in FHC‘s substantial subplot – a depressed farmer caring for an adopted daughter with two deadbeats desperately digging for reputed treasure on his land – as both facilitate the transmission of Florentina’s narrative, which is really only one that film could tell (with six hours of your time – and get the sandwiches in beforehand because you won’t want to drop the thread).
Scenes of epiphanic intensity: a struggle with a young male assailant; Florentina trying to recall her life story as she feeds goats; a young girl racked with coughing fits; a direct appeal to the camera; staggering down a lamplit street in search of help; others I do not want to summarise but will not forget.
More to say (insatiable) but that only proves the point that FHC is (hopefully) the first word in a long conversation.