Sunday, July 28, 2013

Amor y Muerte


16th Century, somewhere in the Katagalugan region. Amor (Althea Vega), the daughter of one of Lakandula’s distant relatives, is married to Diego (Markki Stroem), a half-Spanish general. Together with Tia Soledad (Ama Quiambao), they live a rather simple life in a small hut with a few neighbors. The couple makes love passionately every night, and her wails of pleasure audible throughout the town has led the town priest to wonder how the native women of the land could have such strong libido. As her husband is summoned to Manila to quell a rebellion in Intramuros, Amor turns to the pagan snake charmer living by the waterfall for her quick carnal fix. What happens when the husband suddenly comes back unannounced and finds out about his wife’s extra-marital affairs?

A lot of people will dismiss this as an infidelity movie set during the Spanish colonial era. You could not blame them though, because there are many reasons for the film to be considered as soft porn. There are, like, half a dozen sex scenes in there between the lead actress and her two guys. Pumping scenes and breast exposure abound, this is obviously not a family movie which you could watch with the kids. Newsflash, it is R-18, and not without reason. It is sad though, because the controversial nature of the film might eclipse the symbolism that it subtly hides beneath Amor’s every grunt and every moan.

The woman herself is a symbolism of every native inhabitant of the land during those colonial times. This is not to say that every woman during that time was two-timing her husband. Yes, Amor is promiscuous. There simply is no point arguing over that. But since this is Cinemalaya, would it not be appropriate to at least reflect and come up with some sort of intelligent analysis? More than giving a hard-on, the director probably has another message in mind to convey to you that would also stimulate your brain.

Amor is Spanish colonial Philippines. She has declared herself a Christian and married Catholic Spain in the form of Diego, but there is no stopping her from running back to and indulging in her roots personified by Apitong. And his severe lack of clothes. While Amor enjoys every thrust as she frolics with the allure of a new and foreign culture that she is still getting to know and would like to be a part of, she still could not restrain herself from enjoying the appeal of her very own culture, tradition, and humanity. Amor is Spanish colonial Philippines, a nation torn between the old and the new, and has had no choice but to straddle both, pun intended, losing her very own identity in the process.

But Amor made a choice. She married the Spaniard and thought that in time, perhaps, she could be the Spaniard that she will never be. Absurd, perhaps, but is such hypocrisy not the very foundation of each and every story about colonization? The director has been alluding to this every time one character would hint on how the Tagalogs are known to not betray their own kin. Such is the phenomenon of invasion and subordination that this story would no longer come as a surprise to anyone who has had a history lesson in high school, but here is hoping that people who watch this could see beyond the graphic content, and come up with a similar conclusion that involves some extra brain exercise.

The lead actors should attend more workshop sessions, especially Markki Stroem. While his role justifies his awkward delivery (his role is supposed to be half-half, which is what he is in real life), his acting comes off as rehearsed most of the time. Althea Vega has more luck, and her underacting is redeemed by the several confrontations that she has with the late Ama Quiambao, who was her usual awesome self portraying Tia Soledad.

Ah, yes, Tia Soledad. Those confrontation scenes should have been the crowd favorite because they are so spot-on as running commentaries of the status quo during that time. Here you have two women, both Filipinas who should be on the same side, but end up contradicting because of their different allegiances. Tia Soledad is Catholic in front of other Catholics, but returns to her pagan Gods as the sun sets. Amor is also Catholic, or she thinks she is, but could do nothing to restrain that part of her who knows that she is Filipina, and would never be a Spaniard. As she runs back to her pagan lover one last time, she discovers that he has been Christianized by the town priest, and as he deflects her sexual advances because it is considered a sin, she almost suffers a nervous breakdown.

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