Like Prologue to the Great Desparecido, Elegy finds Diaz looking back to the Filipino Revolution of the last years of the 19th century. Here, he imagines a woman from that era visiting the Philippines of the present-day. Around her time-travel, Diaz weaves a three stories with characters drawn from his usual stock: a prostitute, a musician and three petty criminals. As so often in Diaz’s recent work, Elegy looks back to the Revolution to measure the vast distance between the hopes of that defeated movement and the poverty, desperation and corruption (both political and spiritual) of the Philippines today
Originally planned as a one minute short for Nikalexis.MOV, a program of short films dedicated to the memory of slain critics Alexis Tioseco and Nika Bohinc that featured short works by directors like Raymond Red, Rico Maria Ilarde and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Lav Diaz’s Elehiya sa Dumalaw mula sa Himagsikan (Elegy to the Visitor from the Revolution) grew both in length and concept, turning into a film that is ponderous and perplexing but is still grounded on very familiar emotions of melancholy and despair. It is undoubtedly a film that sprung from spontaneity, with Diaz literally writing the film as he was shooting it with a cast of actors and friends who are willing and ready to take in complex roles in a very short period of time.
…In one of the rare close-ups in Diaz’s entire filmography, the visitor from the past directly looks at the audience, her face aching with heavy emotions of regret and sadness, the same regret and sadness that pervades the musician’s solitary strumming. It is a hauntingly beautiful dream sequence, unsettling in the way it directly confronts with images bursting with the most wistful of emotions. Dreams are said to be products of unprocessed memories. The dream in Diaz’s film seems to be the product of a nation’s unprocessed memories, burdened with a decades’ worth of tireless but unmerited struggles.
Elehiya sa Dumalaw mula sa Himagsikan is clearly Diaz’s lament to what the country and its citizens have become. More importantly, it is also his ode to those who continue with the revolution, notwithstanding their songs being unheard, their images being unseen, and their impassioned calls being unfelt. It is everything Diaz stands for. It is everything Tioseco stood and wished for.