FAITH, LOVE TIME AND ANTONIO LUNA
by Pablo A. Tariman
Some 116 years after his treacherous death in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, Gen. Antonio Luna gets a rare cinematic tribute from filmmaker Jerrold Tarog.
With a musician as director and co-writer, Tarog’s “Heneral Luna” triumphs on many fronts.
The film scoring by the director himself (he studied at the UP College of Music) compliments the encompassing story of the film. The cinematography of Ping Ignacio is sparse and highlights the characters more than the scenic backgrounds.
To this cineaste, the film’s most arresting moment is General Luna playing the guitar as he contemplates his fate in this revolution with some leaders out to get him out of the picture. With Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” in the background, this sequence has flashbacks showing his idyllic family life in Binondo enjoying a rare happy Christmas before the onset of the revolution.
This part provides a much-needed quiet contrast to the battle scenes. The script of E.A. Rocha and Henry Hunt Francia and with the director as co-writer is at once blunt on one aspect and poetic on the other. And always, every dialogue gives you a quick feedback on which to judge the man and his milieu.
Moreover, his scenes with Luna’s lover, Isabel (Mylene Dizon) gives us a close hint of his great love for his country. To him everyone should make a supreme sacrifice in this revolution even at the expense of families.
As it is, there is more of the man here than the icon which is a departure from the usual pompous accounts of heroes in Philippine cinema. Because as we all know, history books are replete with incredible accounts of heroes with perfect lives fit for veneration from the Holy Name Society.
But in this film, we see a highly vulnerable Antonio Luna always impatient about his compatriot’s lack of discipline (indeed the main culprit of today’s traffic mess) and a president who can’t lead (we still see that today).
In that war against the Americans, we get to see historical figures from Luna’s milieus who are either for or against the new colonizers.
In this two-hour film, John Arcilla breathes life to the man and the beleaguered hero and comes out a highly sensitive actor who dazzles his audience with his unique brand of ensemble acting.
Just as brilliant and audacious is Nonie Buencamino’s portrayal of Felipe Buencamino, the man who sees nothing wrong with another colonial life under the Americans.
Aaron Villaflor — as the young journalist who unravels Luna’s life in the film — gives us a quiet but passionate portrayal; Mon Confiado closes a chapter on his stereotype bad man roles and emerged another villain in the realm of history for his portrayal of President Emilio Aguinaldo.
The cameo parts of several topnotch actors give us a quick but memorable insight into the historic roles of Apolinario Mabini (Epi Quizon), Col. Paco Roman (Joem Bascon) and Alvin Anson as Gen. Jose Alejandrino; Alex Vincent Medina as Capt. Jose Bernal; Ronnie Lazaro as Lt. Garcia; Ketchup Eusebio as Capt. Janolino; Art Acuña as Col. Manuel Bernal; Leo Martinez as Pedro Paterno; Lorenz Martinez as Gen. Tomas Mascardo and Paulo Avelino as Gen. Gregorio “Goyong” Del Pilar.
By coincidence, two distinguished actors whose parents come from Catanduanes figure in the acclaimed film. They are John Arcilla in the title role and 2014 Urian Best Actor Awardee Jun-Jun Quintana as Jose Rizal with fleeting but remarkable moments in the film.
As it is, the film is a rare glimpse of history and of the man who believed in the Filipino (and impatient about his lack of discipline and indolence).
Ironically, it is a film that makes us realize that in the present social and political set-up, nothing much has changed.
For once, Filipino moviegoers should get a much-needed respite from ‘kilig” movies and watch “Heneral Luna.”
It is another brilliant re-telling of Eddie Romero’s “Ganito Kami Noon, Papano Kayo Ngayon” with the Filipino-American war as the setting of a revolution that revealed the true heroes and villains in Philippine history.
“Heneral Luna” directed by Jerrold Tarog is now showing in all theaters.