To not blog about Heneral Luna, the movie, is a waste of perfectly good opportunity to heap praises on a movie that clearly deserves it.
Here’s a full disclosure. I have a love-hate relationship with Filipino movies, specifically: the slimy-kerida-mindless-comedy-drivel-teen-landian drivel that is being fed and lapped by local movie goers. It disgusts me how we can make movies out of stupid novelty songs and have it gross more than PHP200m in the box-office. I hate it when atrocious actors, fueled by a rabid fan base, can make mindless movies and be considered movie stars. I hate it when people disregard the auteur, intelligent movies of yesterday as pure nostalgia. To put it bluntly, I have lost all hope in Pinoy cinema and would have been happy reading the subtitles of East Asian films.
That is until Heneral Luna came along.
First, you need to understand that this movie does not beatify Heneral Antonio Luna as a saint. Quite the contrary, in fact. He is temperamental, war-hungry, conceited, prone to outbursts and curses like hell. He does things his way. But he also has balls big enough to fight for the republic and it’s mad mix of regionalistic assholes. He is a genius in military strategy and a warrior and fighter. His heart is in the right place, no matter how crazy and dangerous his strategies may be.
Unlike some of the characters in the movie, the general doesn’t have hero complex, acting like the savior of the islands. At best, he is a genius and nationalistic military strategist, at worst, he is war-obsessed mad man.
Together with the fiery general is his loyal men who shared his passion and understood his temper. They are the type of people who will gladly die in battle, will march into enemy fire just because the general they respect is up in front charging while riding his horse to eventual death.
Two of these loyal men, the young Colonel Francisco “Paco” Roman (Joem Bascon) and Captain Eduardo Rusca (Archie Alemania) were with him when he was assassinated. Rusca survived but Roman perished together with the general.
Making up the able cast is some of the country’s best character actors. Suffice to say, everyone brought their characters to life – inside the cinema, you can hear people literally wanting to kick Capt. Janolino’s ass or ready to commit treason against the first Philippine president Emilio Aguinaldo.
We always hear about how there’s no small roles – well, in this movie everyone is larger than life: from the brave Liutenant Garcia to the insecure Tomas Mascardo. Every actor portrayed their character in a way that is not too patronizing (as if waiting for their hour of greatness) but as human beings.
There is no need to dwell on how good these actors are. See the movie and have a first-hand look on how real actors bring life to characters. No ham acting, no cutesy put-on performances just plain talent. Aside from John Arcilla who played General Luna, my other two favorites are Mon Confiado as President Aguinaldo and Epi Quizon as Apolinario Mabini.
They say that you’ll know a movie is a good when it affected a lot of people.
At the beginning, people were laughing their heads off – every “punyeta” every “p*t*ng I ina” are punctuated by gales of laughter. Yes, apparently, General Luna is one foul-mouthed SOB (“hulihin nyo na nga to, nauubusan na ako ng ingles… P*t*ng Ina!)
And then the ugly reality of war started reading its head: women raped by American soldiers while their family members are killed; Cabinet members one-upping each other usually after their own interest; of cabinet members throwing punches against each other while the president watched helplessly; of the regionalistic pride that seemed to tore Filipinos apart even in modern times; of Filipinos killing fellow Filipinos.
And then the laughter was replaced by gasps then sobs then… just silence.
On screen, the image of the Philippine flag slowly being consumed by fire, slowly being reduced to ashes is just too much to take.
Credit: Photos from the Heneral Luna Facebook page.