Reviews are in for Lav Diaz's "Ang Panahon ng Halimaw," are in, and they're mostly positive, with some foreign critics left in awe with the Filipino director's ambition in bringing to light his country's political problems through a "rock opera."
Starring Piolo Pascual and Shaina Magdayao, "Ang Panahon ng Halimaw," which is making its debut at the Berlin International Film Festival, where it is competing for the main prize, takes place in 1970s Philippines during the Martial Law era.
In his review, Screen Daily's Jonathan Romney calls it Diaz's "most experimental work yet."
He praises the four-hour drama about the violent abuses of the Marcos regime for its "boldness and considerable beauty," but notes that it may be devoid of mainstream appeal.
He also points out that the simplicity and repetitiveness of Diaz's original compositions may contribute to a very "languid" and "downbeat" feel, "but it's no less angry and intense."
The Hollywood Reporter's Clarence Tsui agreed that the movie has a clear political stance, describing it as Diaz's "seething critique about the Philippines’ current trigger-happy president."
Tsui also noted a scene about the masterpieces of Pascual's poet character being viewed as "useless in this dumb country," which may suggest a parallel with Diaz's own works.
Critic Adam Cook was more generous with his praise, writing on Twitter: "Imperfect but transcendent. The strongest of his recent work and certainly the most emotionally resonant."
Variety's Guy Lodge felt divided in his review, arguing that while a better editor could have given the movie a "finer rhythmic and tonal variations," it was still very much a unique experience.
He writes: "Diaz remains emphatically his own artist, whether to exhilarating or punishing effect."
Bituin Escalante gets a shout-out from Lodge, crediting the Pinay singer for delivering many of the "raw, stirring interludes."