LFF 2020: Genus Pan – Review

Release Date – TBC, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 2 hours 36 minutes, Director – Lav Diaz

Three goldminers (Nanding Yousef, Bart Guingona, Don Melvin Boongaling) venture through an expansive jungle to return to their home village.

From looking at the filmography of director Lav Diaz two and a half hours is a relatively short run-time, compared to his usual 4 hour plus, some of his features have stretched to over 10 hours long. And yet with such heavy core themes as comparing the animal-like instincts and behaviours of humans 156 minutes could seem rather lengthy. And yet, as the three central goldminers (Nanding Yousef, Bart Guingona and Don Melvin Boongaling) travel through the jungle to return to their home village tales of folklore are spun and recited, sparking superstition and fear within the trio. There’s certainly detail to the behaviours of the characters as the jungle causes their sanity to drop, and for a generational divide to cause even more frustrations. Not only do they turn on each other but begin a false battle for an almost just as false leadership of the group – although there is one figure less involved in scraps that starts to take a leading role.

While some scenes during this first hour feel somewhat lengthy they’re still relatively engaging and accessible. The impact of the jungle on the central three figures certainly creates some interest and it helps the film to handle its themes well. It’s once out of the jungle, just as new faces are being introduced, where things begin to get slower. The tone and focus of the film begins to change as the scenes become even longer. Our protagonists are somewhat separated and there appears to be three separate stories created. Elements of folklore are dropped and the piece appears to lose substance. Despite more characters less happens and it shows in the much slower pacing.

What follows is 100-110 minutes of anger, rage, chickens, people randomly snapping at each other, threats, chickens and fights and attacks that look like poorly set out stage fights. The closest thing to a view into animal behaviour is the fact that the village is flooded with roosters and chickens. Dialogue is drowned out by the irritating sound of clucking, squawking and cock-a-doodle-doos – such screaming certainly keeps you awake on a number of occasions. It also provides an understandable explanation as to why almost everyone in the village seems so angered and prone to just being generally horrible to everyone else. There’s a lack of substance which only really allows for the run-time to be truly felt, the engagement of the viewer is quickly lost and its hard to get back into the film once this happens.

As things continue to change in tone, although not for the better and simply creating an even more unengaging feel, the film feels very different to how it started. Detail and key themes are lost and eventually the piece feels very much the same. Wandering for something to show that relates to its key themes, but with extra characters and potential it seemingly fails. It works best when focusing on the mania the three initial focuses find themselves dropping into when traipsing through the uncertain terrain of the jungle. It’s when their minds create stories, visions and falsehoods and the way they respond to this and the instincts that cause them to act upon them, it might be slow but there’s still something there. Once out on the other side such themes drain away and what we’re left with is a long streak of lengthy, uninteresting, anger with little more substance, and the occasional poultry squawk.

There’s more poultry than substance in Genus Pan, including in volume. While it starts out as something fairly interesting and with a good view into human behaviour it soon loses all of this in exchange for almost two hours of people snapping at and scrapping with each other in unconvincing fashion.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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