by Richard Bolisay
▶︎ It’s not as awful as those bad films that deserve to be crucified for making nearly two hours of one’s life a total misery, but Sa Gabing Nanahimik ang mga Kuliglig is almost there. Maybe a few more outrageous dream sequences, or another thirty minutes of alternating between a verbal explanation and a flashback of a similar thing, and blood will be spilled.
That the film is a test of patience is an understatement. It’s riddled with too many problems both big and small — from the production and continuity glitches as well as absurd cuts and transitions, to the inappropriate use of music (every time it comes on, one instinctively looks for a knife) and unstoppable pursuit of the superficial (flashbacks! dialogue! shadows! religious symbols!) — but the biggest hurdle of all is being forced to believe that Mercedes Cabral is the mother of Jess Mendoza. How can one simply accept that without twitching? And if that’s not enough, she is said to be married to Ricky Davao for more than twenty years. Just basic math. How can the above-the-line people, seeing that there is nothing in the story and narrative that would substantiate such casting choice, let that happen?
This is not nitpicking: This is bringing to light an example of extreme desperation, a disastrous creative decision that points to the kind of filmmaking made evident in the output, that one thing that affects everything. And if the viewer lets that slide and musters the strength to suspend disbelief, there remains the difficulty of understanding the habit of the film to overexplain, its tendency to always iterate motivations and put thoughts into words and words into actions. At some point, the constant use of lopsided mise-en-scène no longer works to suggest inner conflict or turmoil, so it resorts to terribly staged dream sequences which, instead of complementing the drama, only mess it further. The reliance on flashbacks and voice-overs also shows how much it suffers from lack of ideas. The viewer is expected only to watch the film happen, literally, without being given the opportunity to think deeper, because Kuliglig places all its cards on the surface and leaves nothing underneath. There is skill, there is promise, and there is imagination — one can feel them so eager to come out and turn the film around, even in the last minute — but sadly none of them are put to good use. ***
Richard Bolisay is a film critic. This piece was first published on his site Lilok Pelikula as part of "Dispatches from Cinemalaya 2017 (Part 2)," August 13 2017.