Last March 4, 2006, some students of University of Asia and the Pacific were fortunate enough to view a film that is considered one of the best films in Philippine cinema. The film is about the experiences of a poor family in the province during the Marcos regime. The main character, Reynaldo, was adopted by Hilda who was psychotic. Hilda’s character was tragically raped and killed by drunkards who were living in their town. Reynaldo’s depression leads him to kill his mother’s murderers. Eventually, he ran away to Manila and was offered shelter by a family. He then abandoned this family and moved to the mountains. He was adopted by a family of miners. Aside from the main character, Reynaldo, the movie also tackles the family he left behind. His aunts, uncle and grandmother also had issues. Throughout the film, Reynaldo’s family struggles socially and politically. The elements of the film, Ebolusyon did a good job in bringing out the message of the film. In my opinion, the message of the film is that we should not be fooled by the appearance of a peaceful province because people who live here also deals with a lot of serious issues that should not be ignored.
The elements of the film were manipulated in such a way that each emotion of the characters and the theme of the film would be emphasized. The director of the film, Lav Diaz was successful in showing what really goes on in provinces of the Philippines. He made use of very long shots of sceneries. As I was watching the film, the long shots made me feel impatient. I guess the director wanted the audience to understand how slow-paced life in the province is. In spite of my impatience, I was able to appreciate the beauty of the sceneries of the province. I think he wanted to make the shots long to give out those two messages. Unlike most films, where they would never consider including scenes that show stillness, the viewers would overlook the beauty of the scenery. The viewers would not appreciate the sceneries as much if the shots were shorter.
The spectators of the movie still managed to appreciate the beauty of the province in the film even if it was shot entirely in black and white and hardly had any effects. I have to admit that not everything is pleasing to the eye. There are a lot of scenes especially in the beginning, which are pitch black. I don’t know if this was so because of technicality in the video or if it was just made that way. If it was made as so, I guess it was put there to contribute to the idea that their province is underdeveloped and lack electricity. This may also to symbolize that they lived in the dark times of the Marcos regime.
The acting of the film was very effective in representing how people in the rural areas of the Philippines lived. The cast of the film includes Philippine cinema’s finest such as Joel Torre as Mayor, Pen Medina as Kadyo and Angie Ferro as Puring. I think that the actors were able to represent their characters well. I thought that their gestures were also well-suited for the role. I think the best moments in terms of acting were with Marya, the blind mother of three. It was the dramatic scene when she found out that her son, Carlos was missing. It is very hard to have a blind person as a role, but still she was successful in portraying a blind person that had a strong personality. Another would be when Kadyo, played by Pen Medina had a dying scene. I thought that his acting when he got stabbed and it took so long for him to die, was brilliant. I think it could be considered as one of the best death scenes in Philippine cinema. In my opinion, Kadyo in that moment represented the suffering and abuse of the oppressed during the Marcos regime.
Ebolusyon’s script is very minimal. I would say that the dialogue in the film would only total to about less than a third of the whole duration of the film. Even if there were only minimal dialogues, not all dialogues that the actors had were meaningful. I guess this gave us an overview of what people living in the rural areas are. The dialogues varied from casual talks to emotional exchanges of words. The dialogue in the film was a roller coaster rides of emotions. The characters’ dialogues contains a lot of pauses but in the next part of the scene, you will find them cussing at each other. I think this is evident with the characters of the three sisters, Juliana, Martina and Huling. Most of the time, they are soft spoken and reserved but when it comes to their troubles socially, they would burst out their grudges to each other and see a very different side of them.
In terms of production design, the element was successful in portraying the level of poverty and underdevelopment that the characters were in. In spite of the not so glamorous bahay-kubo that the Gallardo family lived in, beauty can still be seen in the sceneries of the province. I thought that the production design was successful in depicting their level in society but was not that believable when it came to the era that they live in. I think it is evident that even if the story line of the movie was based in the seventies and eighties decades, it was not clearly reflected in the production design. If it wasn’t for the dialogues that were anti-Marcos and documentaries, it could have passed as a storyline that is in the time frame of the nineties decade. I think that details such as hairstyle, costume, and household of the characters should not be overlooked. It should also be included in the representation of the time frame of the story.
In conclusion, the elements of the film were successful in emphasizing the themes of Ebolusyon. Though the plot of the film could have been presented in less than four hours, I think that the film’s message would not have been successfully conveyed if it was shown in that duration. I think that the film was successful in showing the side of the rural living Filipinos. I believe that these brutal things really do happen. I have met people who have lived in these areas. They have the scars to prove that they have experience that level of brutality in work, hardship in family and complex political system. Through this movie, more people were made aware of these unfortunate events that really exist in provinces.
The fact that it focused solely on the family’s issues and excluded factors which are commonly used in commercial cinema such as melodrama and action, made it more realistic. The eleven hour duration of the film was definitely a challenge. Still, I have to say that watching this film is a unique experience and I don’t regret it. If a viewer is looking for entertainment, this film will not provide him/her with it. What this film offers is a view of the truth in the Marcos regime and the beauty of its cinematography.