If you’re the kind of person who likes novels that are over 600 pages long, then a movie over 4 hours long should be a piece of cake. Imagine a 4-hour movie based on a 600-page book! How can you resist? The book is Crime and Punishment, and the movie is Norte, the End of History, which adapts the basic structure of Dostoyevsky’s plot and transposes it into the modern Philippines. Director Lav Diaz is like the Filipino Scorsese or the Coen brothers- somehow making artful movies into popular ones. He’s made a 9-hour movie before, and the movie he made after Norte (which has yet to be released in the states) is 5 hours. It’s his thing, and he’s sticking to it. But Norte is so starkly violent, so committed to its themes of class privilege, the consequences of sin, and the failings of the Filipino infrastructure, that 4 hours ends up seeming like not enough rather than too much.
Quicker take: If you can watch a 4-hour sporting event, sitting down for one of last year’s richest stories should be easy.