MOVIE REVIEW: Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis (2016)

Hele 00

Directed by Lav Diaz

You know when people say when you’re enjoying what you’re doing, time flies fast? Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis’ running time is a little more than eight hours but it did not feel that long after watching it. Director Lav Diaz is known for his lengthy films, they’re not just three hours, they’re actually more than four hours. His films always build its characters’ journey naturally that you get to be absorbed in its world and that continues with Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis.

Starring Piolo Pascual and John Lloyd Cruz, Philippine mainstream cinema’s top leading men, not only in romantic comedies but also in dramas, both have established names in the industry and it’s surprising for them to be in a Lav Diaz film. But Diaz already expressed his thoughts that the two stars are his first choices and thankfully, both agreed to do the film. They were only informed that the film would be only for four hours, standard runtime for a Lav Diaz film but when Diaz edited the film in New York, they were told that the film will be eight hours long, that it can’t be shorter than that. So, we get to do The Hele Challenge as it was advertised.

For a short version, Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis is immersive. How the film is told brings you back to the old ways, the old times and gives a vital reminder of our roots, how we used to be and that we’re still a nation fighting against one another. Lav Diaz continues to tell stories that are worth your time. The film might be ridiculously lengthy but it’s worth it. Stepping out of the cinema after watching Hele actually didn’t feel like it was eight hours long. Because it absorbs you in its story and it makes you feel like you travelled back in time and actually witnessed the film’s entirety as it happens.

The actors involved in the film are without a doubt impressive, but the film’s best scene is Alessandra De Rossi and Hazel Orencio’s confrontation, time stops when these two desplayed their talents and it became one of the film’s best moments. Another performance worth mentioning is Piolo Pascual and Bart Guingona’s long shot scene. Not sure if it was 20 minutes or even more, but how they conversed, for that long, it felt like they were actually Simoun and Kapitan Heneral.

The film’s strongest feature is its authenticity, not just its setting but also how the actors acted, how the direction of the film made it a genuine movie experience. Eight hours is no joke but it did not feel like a big deal after watching it. Hele can be cut shorter or should be cut shorter for some but this is how films used to be made before, and it makes you feel what great filmmakers from our past wants the audience to feel, to experience.

“Cinema is life” as director Lav Diaz explains his work and his statement is clear in Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis. You get to breathe the characters’ lives through the film and it’s an exceptional experience. Watching an eight-hour film may not be for everyone but for Filipinos, the film should be embraced without any expectations of grandeur like its stars mostly do, should be embraced without any complaints because Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis is us, our reflection and our roots. It should be celebrated for every reason we celebrate being Filipinos, for every reason we get to be engrossed in a film that is worth our time and money.



4.5 Stars

“Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis” opens in select Philippine cinemas March 26, 2016 Black Saturday from Ten17P, EpicMedia, Sine Olivia Pilipinas and Star Cinema. Rated PG by the MTRCB.

Hele Cinema List

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