10 July 2016 | BNester
Endless and strange
Imagine walking into a museum of the Philippines Revolution. It is filled with dioramas or tableaux vivants of famous scenes and people from the revolution, portrayed by actors who act out the events. Each diorama is behind a glass wall: you can only watch from a distance. You walk from one scene to another, spending the same amount of time at each tableau. The museum goes on forever....
That's what watching this film is like. If that sounds like your idea of fun, the A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mysteries is the film for you.
All the scenes are shot in black-and-white with a fixed camera set to middle/long shot. There are no traveling shots, no close-ups, no long distance shots, no zooms, very few slight pans, and no editing. And it goes on forever.
Why did they make the film this way? My guess is that because the revolution occurred at the end of the 19th century, the director was trying to give the impression of what it would have looked like had it been filmed at that time. That was before editing had been invented, when all shots were the same length and just spliced together, and when cameras were only fixed focal length. The only special effect is an overused fog machine (perhaps a metaphor for "the fog of war"?) The actors don't actually act or speak dialogue: instead, they strike poses and declaim in highfaluting literary language. This was, I guess, the style of acting at the time.
I don't know why they didn't go the whole hog, and film it silently with dialogue cards. Perhaps they should have used nitrate stock, which could then burn up in the projector.
It could be that the film gets better as it goes along. I don't know. I escaped after two hours. The film lasts for an unbelievable eight!