Walang Alaala Ang Mga Paru-paro (2009) (Butterflies Have No Memories)
The director’s cut of Butterflies Have No Memories (2009) is something of a misnomer. For one, Diaz had to shoot and cut the film so that it didn’t run for a minute more than the one-hour mark. As a result, it feels as if Diaz had one eye on his film and the other on his watch. There are shots that are abruptly drained off their life and some that feel perfunctory. But the film also seems to mark a turning point in Diaz’s outlook towards the Filipino people. Perhaps for the first time, Diaz portrays the common folk (and perhaps a particular social class) as being almost completely responsible for their misery. In Butterflies, an ex-Chief Security Officer at the mines, Mang Pedring (Dante Perez), blames the mining company, which has withdrawn production after protests by the church and activist organizations, for the economic abyss he and his friends are living in. But it is also starkly pointed out to us that, while they were getting benefited by the mining company, these folks did nothing to set up alternate ways of business and earning and, as a result, find themselves foolishly hoping for a past to return, even when such a regression is harmful it is to the collective living on the island. Mang misguidedly plans to reverse time and reinstall the factory by kidnapping the daughter of the owner of the mining company (Lois Goff), who has returned to the island after several years and who calls Mang her second-father. What Mang tries to do overrides personal memory and disregards the fact that it is he who has lived like a moth, inside a cocoon. As, in the final shot, Mang and his friends stand wearing those Morione masks (which bring in the ideas of guilt, remembrance, conscience and redemption – so key to the film), they realize that they’ve gone way too far back in time than they would have liked – right into the moral morass of Ancient Rome.
[Capsule added to The Films of Lav Diaz]