Wesley Morris has Norte, the End of History as his film of 2014.
1. Norte, the End of History
Lav Diaz’s contemplation of life after someone else’s death taxis a runway for the first 35 of its 250 majestic minutes. Once it takes off, you can’t believe you’re flying. You don’t want to land. The story, set in the Philippines, of a man wrongly imprisoned for murder, the wife he’s left behind, and the moral rot of the real killer, is like a work of philosophical and spiritual origami — Dostoyevsky with human levitation and mood lighting. The movie roves wastelands; it climbs to heaven. With each passing scene, Diaz finds new ways of compounding the visual and emotional scope of the film, reaching a degree of artistry that provokes an involuntary response. When it ended the first time I saw it, I stood up, with tears in my eyes, and clapped. The second time, I just sat in my seat, awed by what Diaz had achieved, and perplexed as to how. On neither occasion did I feel like I had simply gone to a movie. I had answered the call of God.