Review roundup: What critics say about 'Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis'


Posted at Mar 26 2016 09:56 AM

MANILA – Still can’t decide if you can devote eight hours to watch “Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis,” the much-talked about Lav Diaz-directed movie starring Piolo Pascual and John Lloyd Cruz?

Here’s a roundup of reviews of “Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis”, which was graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board. It will be shown in selected cinemas nationwide starting Black Saturday.

“In its eight hours, ‘Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis’ becomes many things. It is fanfiction. It is a loving tribute of the national hero. It is a historical tale. It is a record of crimes. It is a record of madness. There’s a section that plays as a tiny morality tale. It is an examination of our poetry and our music and our mythology. It is an exploration with our relationship to the divine, to the supernatural, and to the all-too mundane. Yes, it is eight hours long, but speaking as someone who regularly sees eight or more hours of cinema in a day, I can say that it is rare to get eight hours of cinema that’s as engaging and as powerful as this.” – Philbert Ortiz Dy for

“There is a richness here that strains to be channeled into a focused film. With the whole revolution taking place off-camera, it is also a very interiorized film. Diaz has great feeling for the human comedy, where cowardice and betrayal alternate with heroism and solidarity. But reducing everything to an indecisive intellectual, a half-mad wife and some cackling evildoers rather simplifies the tale.” – Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter

“I would happily watch a hut burning by the sea or plumes of smoke spreading in the darkness for another hour. Even its many anachronisms feel less like production design errors than reminders that the film is set in the 19th century but its agonies are with us in the 21st.” – writer Jessica Zafra

“This eight-hour-plus mourning cry for the lives and liberties lost to the 1986 Philippine Revolution may rep a sincere spillage of its creator’s soul, but it’s also a work of stony, audience-opposed self-indulgence. A major disappointment from a major filmmaker, Diaz’s latest super-sized tapestry of historical fact, folklore and cine-poetry is typically ambitious in its expressionism – but sees the helmer venturing into the kind of declamatory, didactic rhetoric that his recent stunners ‘Norte, the End of History’ and ‘From What Is Before’ so elegantly avoided.” – Guy Lodge, Variety

“'Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis' is a gorgeous film that traces the outlines of the Philippine character, flaws and virtues and all, from the ferment of its end-of-the-century rebellion through its four hundred years of colonial past down to its ancient pagan roots. If every foreign critic hated it for its many flawed details (forgot to mention, some of the Spanish dialogue sounded stilted), its dialogue-heavy dramatury, its (ultimately irrelevant) length, none of that would matter. The film was made for us Filipinos, to fill our hunger for poetry and narrative and magic, to give us back a sense of our storied past, our mythical and historical dead.” – film critic Noel Vera