Norte, the End of History, a partial adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, tells the story of two men, Joaquin (Archie Alemania) and Fabian (Sid Lucero)- both repeated borrowers from local usurer and villainess, Magda (Mae Paner). When the two bear witness to one of Magda’s particularly cruel acts, they respond with violence. Joaquin attempts to strangle Magda but flees when he cannot complete the deed, while, later that evening; Fabian brutally murders both Magda and her adolescent daughter. Yet the police accuse Joaquin of the crime, and Fabian roams free.
What follows is a harrowing tale of suffering and brutality, as well as a philosophical consideration of crime and its far-reaching consequences. Fabian, refusing to publicly acknowledge his crime and continuing to wallow in his contrarian intellectualism, flees to Manila, where he befriends a group of born-again Christians. Joaquin, on the other hand, helplessly asserts his innocence from prison while doing his best to offer compassion in an otherwise ruthlessly violent and merciless environment. Meanwhile, Joaquin’s wife, Eliza (Angeli Bayani), struggles to make ends meet for their two young children and come to terms with her husband’s absence.
With a deliberate long-take style, the film’s pacing and visuals pay homage to directors like Andrei Tarkovsky and Lisandro Alonso. It also raises timeless questions of justice and forgiveness, both for these characters and on a much broader scale: Will Fabian confess his crime? Will Joaquin be acquitted? What forms can justice take, if ever it occurs? How much violence can weigh upon one person’s conscience before s/he breaks under its weight? How do the pains of suffering play out differently in the lives of men and women and in the lives of believers and non-believers? Norte poses these questions quietly and subtly against a Filipino background that glows with incongruous, elemental beauty.