Thoughts on an Aborted Viewing of Evolution of a Filipino Family

A large part of what made Out 1 such a compelling, mesmerizing experience was the fact that I saw it in a theater and with other people. Watching such a film of notorious duration in a place where I couldn’t just get up or pull up another screen helps, certainly for every film but especially one of this kind. Leaving aside the fact that the two and a half hours of Evolution of a Filipino Family didn’t impress me nearly as much as the first episode of Out 1, I feel that the meditative pace of Evolution would have played significantly better in a theater where the rewind button was not an option.

The rewind button, however, helped little when it came to the surprisingly convoluted plot. Neither the Boyhood-esque portrait from Robert Koehler’s review at TIFF nor the non-linear style I had read from someone online, it is instead two parallel storylines, roughly speaking, a fact gleaned later on after I had taken numerous breaks and rewinds in an attempt to figure out the plot. Out 1 offers numerous pleasures aside from its relatively inconsequential plot, but the contours that I found most informed Evolution seemed fragmented. If I had gotten further, and been more in tune with Lav Diaz’s elongated rhythm, then things could have been different, but as is…

It must also be mentioned that Diaz’s style seemed rather different from expected. Though in the first half hour there are some long takes of landscape and people moving through it similar to that of Weerasethakul (in my limited experience) much of the film proceeds in a rather uninhibited vein: the shooting style is the same but the comment is filled with violence and intimations of the surrounding world, along with those rather odd radio stories; whether they are meant to echo the narrative or not seemed inconclusive.