Monday, November 25, 2013

ISLANDS (Whammy Alcazaren, 2013)

Already many days away, weeks away from having seen it for the first time, Whammy Alcazaren’s Islands keeps surging back to me, wave after wave of images washing over my imaginary, surprisingly intact, surprisingly of a piece, unscathed, even through the sieve of unreliable memory. Faces in anguish, faces in lachrymose release, minimalist, futuristic interiors of a space ship, lush, leafy forests and dark landscapes -- many frames of such nature have become a brand on the brain. Certain images evoke those of Tarkovsky and other thoughtful directors: more than a handful come close to becoming iconic, so well-designed and so well-composed as to linger long and endure. Colossal now seems like a rough draft for this. 

This time the audio-visual aspects and overall design have caught up with Alcazaren's vision. This time the themes pop out of the abstract, rounded out, the signifiers give justice to the signifieds. This time, however, he scales down his scope -- though it remains a vast one. If the expansive myth of man is part of the subject of Colossal alongside man's timeless grief, Islands centers on seemingly narrower existential longings -- loneliness -- something Alcazaren traces speculatively to prehistory and extrapolates to the future.

Rigor and restraint remain palpable ideals to admire in the filmmaker, pinpoint in purpose and composition: the concretization of an abstraction, a difficult task, is never refracted nor distorted out of shape. Simply, Islands is of a distinctive look -- is this perhaps the filmmaker's coming to his own? his mature aesthetics? -- although not necessarily stylized nor rendered raw from the camera. 

What might be deemed conventional staples and set pieces in an avowed sci-fi film, which Alcazaren declares Islands to be, mostly takes place off-screen. In essence, we get, instead, a sombre but riveting tone poem -- variants on a theme -- that sustains itself and our rapt attentions over the duration. Lest this raises the red flag, that of a monotonous meditation, Islands is a reassuring film that maps out loneliness without neglecting its timeless opposite. Thus the filmmaker exposes himself with nude vulnerabilities, taking great emotional risks to chart, to considerable extent, the progress and struggle of love.

Like an archipelago of fragments, Islands is a cluster of three seemingly separate but interconnected narratives, signifying one meaning: the bane of being solitarily an island, the syndrome of being unbearably alone, to join the allusion to John Donne and the metaphysical poetry of the 17th century. With this theme as a central organizing principle, these three stories are surprisingly not too dated nor too antiquated for comfort. This intersecting tryptich - shot by a diegetic director -- are contained within a primary narrative, contrapuntal in look and feel. While the embedded diegesis broods with eclipsed existence, the primary narrative bristles with color and vibrancy, steeped in the personal moment yet steeped in contemporary ethos, full of bonhomie and intimacy, yet going in circles with what remains unsaid, forever out of turn.

Aspects of awkward romance, the labor of love. However, we are first thrown a curve ball, the fictional director's treatise on the subject of unrelieved loneliness and the elusiveness of its antithesis. This inflects our anticipation of hard-won love, whatever it is going to be -- agape, philia, eros -- as this three-part-film-within-film lingers over how -- sadly, not why -- man can't stand to be alone and the diachronic deductiveness of love's failure. Perhaps because human nature remains inexplicable in its mysteries, an inexact science, even in its most basic mechanisms, so that this embedded film seems flawed with assumptions as it crisscrosses time and space and is aptly told in non-linear terms. 

Story 1 of 3. Somewhere in outer space, in unknown time, two astronauts in a space station are cut off from earthly contact for lengthy periods of time, sustained only by a chamber full of books and phonographic records, cut off even from each other, although they are identical twins. Something -- or someone -- has driven a wedge between them, a seeming displacement of agape by suspected eros meant for someone else. One dines alone; another goes on a solitary stationary bike. In loneliness, tears of regret flow. 

Story 2 of 3. Set in the present, a second story is that of a matriarch living alone, who, except for occasional visits from her daughter and her grandson, is almost without outside connection. She is tied to the past, to her veneration of the Virgin Mary, to the memory of a dead husband, refusing the overtures of her daughter, the comfort afforded by technology. She speculates about her neighbors and talks, in almost otherworldly tones, of a sublime silence. She remains haunted by a vision from her past of a bright space craft shooting into space. 

Story 3 of 3. To make complete the ubiquity of love and its denial, the film harks back to prehistory, where a man trapped in the vast wilderness, an existential cave man if ever there was one, stalks a landscape yet to be tamed. Primitive of clothing and tools, this man is made complex by tears, made so apparently by the rejection of a woman whose love belongs to another. For his needs, this man can slay big game, even dinosaurs, but he is powerless in the refusal of the love he offers, in his lack of companionship. When he hunts, when he sleeps, when he wakes, alone: Tears stream down his face. Meditating on such dark, brooding, Manichean emotions, this is the prehistoric condition of man, the film assumes, in the continuum of time.

Relying on its filmographic predecessor as a frame of reference, Islands exemplfies the judiciousness of Nam June Paik's well-known lesson, which performatively says, "If something works, then use it again." That is to say, many of the virtues of Colossal are here put to good use: Islands explores, once again, black emotions, their analogue of secluded landscapes, rendered in regional poetry and expansively framed by the pan-ontological convergence of past, future and present timeframes (Colossal also encompasses cosmogony and pan-historical dimensions in its overreaching attempt at grand abstractions) -- only this time fleshed out more thoroughly, more sustained in its scrutiny. 

Presumably conceding to his own joie de vivre, his bliss and happiness in contemporary times, Alcazaren invests faith in a pronounced presentism, suggesting, seemingly, the past and the future's fatal, dialectical dead-ends: one with its primitivist loneliness, a world with barrenness and lack of solace, while the future mechanically sublates or sublimates the apparatus of love. Even the matriarch's tale, set in the present, contradicts its loneliness and elegy with a different treatment, neither moody, but perhaps even beatific with religious iconography, alive with revelatory color, alive with available dynamism and possibility that contemporary life offers. The black-and-white tonalities thus give way to a fuller palette of contemporary hope, commending itself to the transformative potential of how love-makes-the the-world-go-round, how love-conquers-all. 

Why sci-fi when this film seems to deny the genre's conventions? To call it a sci-fi film is to all but single out for praise its modest props, its miniature space ship model glimpsed behind the scenes of the diegetic film. But seriously, the anything-can-happen potency, the time-tunneling trick of sci-fi, remains, conceivably, the most durable device to serve the film's all-encompassing themes. Foregrounded, at the heart of the film, however, human capacities and susceptibilities take precedence. Perhaps this dark vision of unknown ages may be just that, the fear of the unknown or perhaps something that further hints at Alcazaren's presentism, attuned alone to the zeitgeist of our times and what it offers.

Think about his conception of the other aspects of the future: Islands remains patterned after the anthropomorphic. The future still seems like us: Astronauts eat like we still do – on regular tables, with utensils, chewing food as we do. Listen to pop music as we do; read books as we do; decompress as we do. No whiz-bang and glittering functioning of gadgets or machines of advanced technology alienates us: Some simple human innovations though may have been discarded, so much so that no one is there to administer the Heimlich maneuver. Time travel seems the only functional index of the future, hinted at, ostensibly, for one to return to a loved one in the past.

Seeing this side by side with Zulawski’s On The Silver Globe, also a story about astronauts but with over-the-top narrative excess, is an instructive study in contrasts: Islands is strictly stripped to essentials and well-disciplined, going in the opposite extreme with austerity, sustaining one unvarying note to the point of simplicity. If Zulawski’s shows a hyper-plotted construction of the future, Alcazaren’s slow-burning meditation of austerity must have been conceived with utmost calibration of functionalism, with strict, geometrical and rigorous architectonics. 

Yet here again, at the beginning, another strength of Alcazaren is reaffirmed: his fluent poetry given voice via a forlorn woman, lamenting someone’s leave-taking, the commiseration of nature, and the hope of the loved one's return. (That maybe the tenor, or my memory is quoting another film.) This sets up the melancholy prologue of the film, a reminder of what Alcazaren has done in the past, and a point of departure for him. Towards the end of the film, then, Alcazaren, unable to keep a straight face, switches registers and the solemnity bursts into topical song, a pop rock ditty in all its idiomatic popularity, deep in outer space. 

Epilogues, even here, stand for modest but promising new beginnings. Set in a bar in the present, a man after hours talks about work on a film (the same above-mentioned film) with a girl he dances attendance to. Slowly they slide into contemporary codes of courtship: not stilted nor formal prose, but one that is loosely conversational, au courant, in lockstep with each other: a kind of leap of faith to reach the other, an act that renounces for now Alcazaren's trademark poetic monologue. 

Growing in synergy, the twosome engage in an antiphonal exchange, a crypto-romantic back-and-forth, with sometimes silly, sometimes winsome results. The camera frames the prospective lovers with a seeming reassurance of its pretense of non-attraction, the pretense of faux-romance. Perhaps an intimation of a post-structural romance. (Modernists, someone once said, hate the predictability of popular music, something Islands apparently disagrees with.) 

After the predominantly cheerless content of most of his output, Alcazaren has switched from dismal darkness to a kind of diurnal dreaming. Bare frames of pure white, symbolic of pure intention, reminiscent of a Mondrian, or a De Stijl distillation, are the coda to the film while the conversation continues off-screen between man and woman. Even with such abstract frames, this is Alcazaren at his most unguarded moment, an unmistakable prelude to the profession of love.        

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

ANGUSTIA (Kristian Sendon Cordero, 2013)

Doubtless, the film throws into perfect relief the microstructures, as it were, of 19th century Bicol. Doubtless, the film displays due diligence, none more apparent than in its impressive grasp of foreign and indigenous languages – Latin, Agta, Bicolano, Spanish, and so on. Doubtless, the mise en scene sports all the texture and fabric befitting its time, its church architecture and costume done to a tee. Doubtless, if it needs to be spelled out, all the technical and production polish on this film proves beyond reproach.

However, there’s the rub. As a consequence of its obsession to get the particulars of the period right -- e.g. the old, indigenous songs, the old Latin, liturgical rituals, the old architectural filigree and the traditional portraiture of flora -- Angustia's gloss seeps and sticks to the surface, even as it neglects the psychological spiral of Don Victorino Hernandez, a creole secular priest, and his irrevocable descent from religious zeal and fervor to self-destructive madness. Instead, it manufactures a most unreliable man of cloth: when it is convenient, zealous and brave in his catechism and evangelism, yet at others, when again convenient, too weak and brittle at the crucible. He is someone who couldn’t hold a candle to, say, Bunuel’s Nazarin or Bresson’s country priest, who must be turning and tossing in their graves.

What the film is intent to accomplish is clear enough: the humanization of clergymen, the exposure of their carnal flaws, their baser instincts. But this is too simplistic, too outmoded, if not too antiquated by now. This might be explained by its origin in an old and dusty Bicolano legend. Rizal, meanwhile, made novels out of priestly warts more than a hundred years ago. Leo X is no oddity, but a tip of the iceberg. Latter-day scandals of pedophilia involving men of cloth only serve to reinforce that.

Don Victorino’s downward spiral from enthused evangelism to sin and anguish to what he deems as the release of suicide can only be a cop-out of characterization. In the tenacious theology of the Church, taking one’s life is taking the mortification of flesh a little too literally. It represents a damnable, unforgivable act for a priest to commit self-murder, even as an act of repentance. Such an act is tantamount to self-excommunication: to be buried without sacrament, away from the blessed dead. That is a deterrent from a path of self-destruction that is seldom overlooked. Pain at the threshold of death, but not naked death, is more their style.

Yes, in the overall scheme of things, the priest’s impending death by his own hands serves the film’s grander theme, and that is the capitulation of the secular priest to pagan catholicity. Genuine angustia, however, consists in carrying one’s cross and reliving the passion of Christ. Suicide is the easy way out. But shouldn’t we relish that this film attempted the reversal of Catholicism, in favor of indigenous religion, or at least a union between those two schools of spirituality? Shouldn't we be thankful for the spectacle of one of them all but defrocked from a hieratic place on the pedestal?

If it were set in more contemporary and Freudian times, Angustia may have kept itself honest at mirroring verisimilitude and describing actual psychological states. But even without it, one can cite Bunuel as an exemplar at dissecting and exhibiting these sacerdotal figures with accuracy through sophisticated surrealism, realizing the resilience, persistence and expedience of these men beneath cowls: these priests are no pushovers, never self-defeatist, so that even this arch-critic of the Church was often between two minds about them, later on becoming “fond” of these clerics as benign pets, or as worthy adversaries, as film critic Pauline Kael once put it.

Detail after detail paints a promising beginning for Angustia, but the protagonist's credible transformation is not forthcoming. Don Victorino Hernandez is presented as someone with vast reserves of evangelical will and zeal. He is as fond of botany and pious to the Virgin Mary as St. Francis was of animals. Also, he is undertaking a grandiose mission to convert the Agtas of the mountains of Bicol. Once, at the edge of the forest, he finds one playing cat and mouse with another Agta. He promptly converts Dunag to Catholicism and falls in love with her. They soon partake of carnal knowledge everywhere, even in the confessional. He then converts Dunag’s pursuer as well. Big mistake. The two Agtas court under his nose and decide to marry. Priest goes suddenly psycho and kills them with his own hands. Then he starts to see their ghosts. 

What begins as liturgical drama (i.e. Don Victorino Hernandez, ensconced deep in his forest paradise, a paradise expressed in his love for wild flora, and the bliss of the Eucharist, expressed in the dead language of Latin, is about to lose it all) turns into Jacobean drama, with sensational elements of murder, sex and acts that can't be washed away so easily like laundry, before morphing into something no less incongruous: the implicit apostasy of the priest, that is, his implicit reverse conversion by a Christianized babaylan, who represents the syncretism of indigenous and foreign beliefs. Then the act that one can already prefigure. 

Does this make believers, as it were, out of us? Don Victorino Hernandez's fatal trajectory has been done to the point of indifference already, too pat, and yet unearned, in its inevitability, in many a film or work of literature. Real, priestly anguish is sadomasochistic, but not fatal: manifested in the belief of unworthiness, the vow of poverty, the mortification of the flesh, self-flagellation, self-abnegation, the ritual crowning of thorns. Hence an ending true to that tradition seems more plausible: the priest driven from our midst, like Bunuel's Nazarin bearing all his burdens, or Bresson's priest of Ambricourt, despite terminal sickness, dedicating himself to his duties, with graceful anguish in his heart, until the very end. 


Whoever utters this evasive expression may be hiding the truth. Does the counsel of a pause inhere in the darkness of the hour, or the darkness of the story? Perhaps, either way, the film forebodes a harrowing outcome. As it slowly unfolds, true enough, the narrative confirms our worst apprehensions and the lasting wound it has already left on our collective psyche, so that it cannot be told in a straightforward way. Such a telling entails the perspective and distance of time and space, both requisites of which Leyco possesses with serendipity and acuity. 

Bukas Na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na, to begin with, hints at being chapters in a historical book. A paratextual instance  intercalates “figures” or pictures at the beginning which we often see in illustrated volumes. They occupy small areas of the frame, but we discern a series of smoke clouds billowing within the pictures. They all bear captions of the 1970s, and the smoke appears like the aftermath of volcanic eruptions.  

Where there's smoke, there must be fire. This is going to be about a a cataclysm, a catastrophe, but what we suspect it is going to be isn't a natural calamity but something wholly man-made. This is hinted at by the peritext: an epigraph that speaks of solidarity and unity in a continuing struggle. True enough, as the chapters of this quasi-volume unfold, we see the darkness of the socio-politcal climate of the 1970s, the looming large of Martial Law. There are four chapters told asynchronously, in reverse order. They tell stories of death and disorder, where everything sacred gives way to the profane, the civilized to the savage.

At first, when the outlines of a story remain to be established, it appears a miscalculation to sequence the movie in this way. But this strange deferral of ultimate cause and effect, this erasure of narrative sequencing, allows the film a patient pacing to gather momentum, although the opening chapters seemingly have a tenuous synchronic connection. The first chapter is a middle-class wedding gone haywire, with the father of the bride-to-be running amok, possessed with personal and parochial affront, shooting down everybody in his way. The period detail is perfectly established by how it is captured: through the lens of an old video camera, monochromatic and full of technological static, handled by a wedding videographer. The second chapter is about how a father of a guerilla tries to contact his son about a matter that might save him from the military operations in the mountains where the guerillas are hiding out. The chapter ends with the apparent firefight between guerillas and government troops, capped off with archival documentary footage of the New People’s Army.

Closer and closer toward the beginning, redolent of our kind of demented engagement with history that goes in circles or backwards, the third and final chapters are what bring the film to a powerful close. The third chapter is about a priest who performs bestialities upon the dead. He has set up a laboratory in his parish to keep the cadavers fresh and free from necrosis. The fourth chapter reveals a most aggravating circumstance, the possible identity of the dead and their dehumanization, but also perhaps their symbolic resurrection and immortalization.

Paratextually again, the film exits with yet another “figure”  -- this time a tiny icon of the infamous mountain face of President Marcos mouthing the titular line in a cartoonish way, in comic contrast to all that preceded it. After its dark portrait of authoritarian, religious and military treacheries, the film stamps this stretch of history with an unexpected watermark -- an affirmation, perhaps, that Leyco may not write history in a literary way, but he may certainly write it cinematically. We know our history, what came after the epoch in question, but Leyco’s film has the hint of a playful rendering of those times that may be construed, in a way, as a staking out of a vantage point, a leaving behind of his signature, and certainly, an irreverent gesture at the brutal Marcosian repression, fueled by the stabbing and penetrating script of the equally irreverent and iconoclastic person of Norman Wilwayco. It is an act of solidarity with revolutionaries and social reformers as well, though Leyco's ways suggest that his contribution to the cause may be to some extent idiosyncratic, since it is personal, since his voice may be a generation removed from the era in question. The utilization of paratextual elements emphasizes this: the parodical 70s-inspired film's poster is impish epitext, as well as the visual presence of video game snippets, the use of artificial, arcade-game-like sound effects to punctuate gunfire -- all tell us that history need not be consigned to books in the intermediality of contemporary times. History must always remain fresh in our memory. As such, it ought to be given expression in all forms of mass media, and perhaps none more artful, none more singular in its perspective, none with greater valency than film itself.

Monday, November 18, 2013

ISKALAWAGS (Keith Deligero, 2013)

No bullshitting, nor turning your backs on these irrepressible pranksters, they command your honest vigilance, but maybe, just maybe, soon enough, they'll get their just comeuppance. I kid you. You'll see. What Keith Deligero's Iskalawags perfectly evokes and captures are the territory and swagger of childhood, the picaresque adventures portrayed impishly, seen through the pellucid eyes of one of the gang, a pair somewhat welling with tears, a voice shifting with emotion and color, tinged with nostalgia and wonder, loss and regret.

Like summers of bygone times, much of the movie is a series of mischief-making episodes, a skewer of adventures that involve this notorious group of adolescent boys under their black flag, narrated through a syncopated and rippled diction in thoughtful Binisaya. Set in a sleepy, seaside village on Camotes Island, Cebu -- sleepy if not for these unruly scamps -- a story of what might seem like a parataxis of pranks, the seeming impunity of children, is slowly preparing them for a rude awakening like sheep to a slaughter. Well, I kid you. Believe me.

We are thrust, without preliminaries or preamble, into the Iskalawags’ make-believe world: this motley crew -- led by Palot, the ring leader who rules by virtue of his seniority (15 years old), the only one so far with pubic hair, the narrator interjects in colorful idiom – reenact a gangster-like showdown from a 1980s or 1990s actioner. When not indulging their betamax fixation, most especially Jeric Raval starrers (a screen idol who makes a curious but telling cameo here), the boys remain inseparable, by day out for sport or by night in their hideout, or under the stars, dreaming of their next mischief.

Transposing Erik Tuban’s story to film is a triumph of Keith Deligero’s imaginative vision. The detail that the time and place of his world evoke reflects on his assured and mature direction. Noteworthy too is the almost unstudied naturalism of acting of the young non-professional ensemble of actors. They seem immersed in the illusionism of fiction, oblivious to all except their own personas. It must be said, however, that such a coming-of-age movie, by now, is far from new or novel: one may even suspect the paradigmatic film it references is Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me, complete with its invitation to the fatal, not to mention the adult voice-over narration of one of its characters, and a chubby figure among them, both fixtures of coming-of-age movies at this point.

Where Iskalawags distinguishes itself, among a diverse and varied field at Cinema One 2013, lies in its brash and unabashed provincialism. This Deligero achieves with a quaint but appropriate visual and aural design: the combination of its seemingly washed-out patina (as in old photographs or old betamax tapes) and a Binisaya narration that is perfectly thoughtful, nostalgic yet modulated. Many of the episodes prove immersive and unique, its fractious kids sincerely inhabit and believe in the wonder of the diegesis, the kind you find only hereabouts. Or thereabouts in a seemingly embracing and permissive Sitio Malinawon, a lost frontier of freedom and dreams.

Foreseeable functions of their teenage years, some of the Iskalawags' objects of curiosity and obsession may read as follows: the vulva of a woman and sex education, spider fights, pretty teachers and pretty teenagers, feisty crabs on the shore, the massacre of chickens with slingshots, not to mention Palot's passion for papayas -- the symbolism surely not lost on you.

Sometimes, it bears noting, even worthy literature does not survive the transition to film, but Iskalawags manages to capture, perhaps even excel, the piquant and percussive story originally written by Erik Tuban. The rhythmic pensiveness and playfulness in Binisaya, a few days removed, still pits and pats in my ears. What I seem to miss, though, is an ending that may better hint at what sets off the reveries of the narrator. What happens to Palot and the rest of the gang at the moment of their crucial witness also remains a mystery. Gone in the secretive flashback, it seems. All we see is the silhouette of a man on a boat, apparently in a foreign land. The strictures of the grown-up world pinning him down, his memories yearning for the whitecaps  and  pennants of childhood rippling in the wind -- something the Iskalawags once embodied and stood for -- something, crazily, maddeningly, bidding him back home.   


Sunday, November 17, 2013

SITIO (Mes De Guzman, 2013)

Sitio, by Mes de Guzman’s own admission, originates from a story that he had to dig up from his old baul. It is a decent film, to a certain extent likable, but to be honest about it, it gets iffy with its embryonic ideology. This time de Guzman's adopted province of Nueva Vizcaya and its country types are defamiliarized beyond recognition. Whether in a good way or not is another matter altogether. 

Sitio, in essence, tells the tale, at once harrowing and humorous, of urban folks rusticating to the titular village in Nueva Vizcaya: Jonas, a real estate magnate reeling from a business fiasco, is on the retreat with his two younger sisters in tow. Here, they encounter rural men with ominously strange gallows humor (Don’t be surprised if these crazy Ilocanos suddenly point a bolo at your jugular and threaten your life if they want to play a prank on you.)

This, then, sets up a world turned upside down. De Guzman posits an urban-rich/rural-poor dichotomy. This encapsulates an oft-examined scenario basic to the cinematic lore of the former Communist countries (good examples would be Otar Iosseliani’s Pastorale and Vsevolod Pudovkin's Storm Over Asia), where this time the binary hierarchy of these two spheres is reversed in the manner of Derrida. This time, then, the city dwellers, with their superior airs, are in for a surprise. At first they may seem in power, but the rural protagonists here are not without cunning. 

The crux for the urbanites comes when they are suspected of killing one of the villagers. This sets off a scheme on the part of the dead man's relatives – all of whom are male (which may or may not accrue to a subtext of phallocracy) – to live off Jonas and his sisters. So they make merry – with food and drink – at the expense of the put-upon hosts. The rural denizens thus become the oppressive and privileged class.

But the ideological schema diagrams the situation this way: the poor locals show a limited, simple-headed opportunism, while the rich urban visitors evolve from complacency to fierce display of self-preservation. The Marxist critic may be left wondering as to who, in truth, is the more adaptable and resilient of these antagonistic classes. So much, it seems, for the ascendance of the real oppressed.

Perhaps it should not be unexpected of De Guzman to go off on such a tangent. Sitio, however, is an act of recidivism; it represents an admittedly more larval stage in the director's  evolution. His more mature work has seen him go from strength to strength, from romanticizing young children in Iranian New Wave fashion in early films like Ang Daang Patungong Kalimugtong to demonstrating the desperate pedagogy of the oppressed in Sa Kanto ng Ulap at Lupa up and just earlier this year, Ang Kuwento ni Mabuti. His version of the oppressed has become more complex. They have unmistakable shadings of moral ambiguity, alloyed with human dimensions.

In Sitio, however, we come face to face with crude, unsophisticated cosmologies: a regression of thought processes, which somehow interrogates the reason for the creation of this film. The situation the poor provincials create is rather factitious and begs questions. If all they are ever after are a handful of free lunches, they are doltish tricksters. Real opportunity, real pragmaticism, real revolution, is not about a free meal but a transfer of the mode of production, as it is explicated in Marxism. 

Even in affluent societies, acts of opportunism are an offshoot of such a premise (e.g. it goes under the heading of "a litigious situation"), but that of the poor in Sitio represents something of a caricature of historical materialism. There is no urgency nor tension to settle fatal class grievances. As if aware of their place in a farce and black comedy, the dead man's relatives are content to partake of banquets and milk their hosts for money in piecemeal fashion. Meanwhile, the rich captives are just as simple-minded, not thinking of taking the matter with all the moral certainty to the authorities (Here one recalls, too, an escape route in an earlier episode involving a dead chicken.) This way it nullifies the deadlock of entrapment to come as in Peckinpah's Straw Dogs. Which may be the point of the exercise, a nod to an ancestor, something which Sitio makes plain, trying to recreate it with less violence and terror but with mixed success.