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Laramie Movie Scope:
Norte, the End of History

One guy's crime, another family's punishment

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 11, 2015 -- This story about crime and punishment reminds me a lot of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel, “Crime and Punishment,” at least the Wiesbaden edition of the book. It is about an intellectual who kills a heartless pawnbroker because of a thin philosophical rationale for ridding the world of evil, but is morally wracked by the fact that an innocent man is imprisoned for the crime.

Set in the Philippines, the story centers around three main characters, Fabian (Sid Lucero) a college dropout who likes to talk philosophy in coffee houses with his friends, Joaquin (Archie Alemania) an injured laborer, and his wife, Eliza (Angeli Bayani) and their children. Joaquin and Eliza owe money to a wealthy money lender, Magda (Mae Paner). Eliza lends a precious ring to Magda, and Joaquin tries to trade it for some DVDs he is selling. Magda refuses. In anger, Joaquin attacks Magda and she calls the police.

Later, when Fabian sees Magda treat Eliza cruelly when she tries to borrow money, he gives Eliza some money, and resolves to deal with Magda. Fabian also owes money to Magda. He goes to see Magda on the pretense to paying her back, but instead murders her. He also murders Magda's daughter when she comes to see about her mother. Fabian steals valuables from Magda's house and buries them in a nearby field.

From earlier discussions in the movie, it appears that Fabian is a kind of nihilist who believes that bad people should be killed. This deadly philosophy that Fabian has developed is just hinted at, never really explained. Fabian evidently feels bad about the murders, but feels worse that Joaquin is convicted of the murders (but not bad enough to take responsibility for the murders and free Joaquin). Eliza is now the sole provider for her family. She works hard selling vegetables from a push cart. At one point, she is in such despair, she almost commits suicide and murder.

Joaquin confessed to the murders, evidently based on very bad legal advice from his lawyer. This makes no sense, since Joaquin had a solid alibi, with witnesses, to prove he was not at the crime scene when the murders happened. Everybody keeps telling Fabian that he should finish law school, where he was a top student, because the country needs good lawyers. Joaquin's murder conviction proves the need for good lawyers.

Meanwhile, Fabian has moved to Manila, where he is wracked with guilt over the murders and the plight of Joaquin and his family. He wanders around the country making rather feeble attempts at atonement, but also commits a rape. The Christian religion gets examined to an extent in this part of the film. Joaquin, on the other hand, becomes a kind of saint in prison, taking care of other prisoners who are sick and injured. He even turns the other cheek and takes care of an abusive, angry man, Wakwak (Soliman Cruz) who wounded him earlier in a vicious attack.

Even though this movie is over four hours long, there is no resolution to this story. There is nothing like the resolution that Dostoyevsky settled upon. The story just dribbles off into nothingness. There are hints that there could eventually be a resolution to this story, but that's all. For a film this long, there is no reason to give such short shrift to such key plot points: The reason for the murders, the reason for the rape, Fabian's emotional evolution, the reason for the conviction, the reason for Joaquin's conversion to sainthood, the outcome of the appeal. These are important parts of the story, but they are either skimmed over or simply left out.

As long as this movie is, it presents only part of the story. A lot of its length is due to long, uncut static camera shots where little is happening. We critics have a high tolerance for long, slow-moving movies where nothing much happens, but a lot of people don't, so be warned. There is some good cinematography in this film, and one nice dream sequence where Joaquin seems to be transported, weightless, out of prison. The acting is also very good, but those reasons are not enough for me to recommend this film. It rates a C. Languages in the film are Filipino, Tagalog and English, with subtitles.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2015 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)