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Film Review

Guillen's 'Kung Ako'y Iiwan Mo': A Serious and Successful Film

by Behn Cervantes

Kung Ako'y Iiwan Mo was the most serious of the entries in the festival. It
takes the festival seriously and tries to say something about mature in a
new way. The approach is unfamiliar  to the general audience, but,
should be familiar to the critics who would praise such a quality in
European films but are quick to pan the Filipino directors who attempts
such flashes of reality.

It is also perverse to enjoy a film that critics have panned for reasons that
indicate either momentary blindness and deafness, or a lack of concern
for the statement of the director on the part of those critics. How easy to
latch on to accusations like, "slow," "needs further editing," or, even
telling the director to "re-shoot the film." A film is not a draft that one can
re-write before one hands it in to the editor of a newspaper. It is a
finished product, not unlike the printed review, despite its errors. It
smacks of naiveté to ask the director to re-do the movie. How often is
length and pace mistaken for editing? To mistake something slow for
boring?

***
The point of the film is the personal meaning of success to the two
protagonists. The conflict is personal in nature. This is taken up during
thesis defense of the sociologist played by Christopher de Leon. The
defense takes place when his wife, Nora Aunor, a successful singer, has
her first solo concert. In a way, she too has a to defend herself in
profession. Her husband who has been her manager in the past cannot
take the expected supportive role. Instead, he is concerned with
sociology, a subject quite alien to the entertainer's consciousness.
Further, she is hassled by squabble of her choreographer, her musical
director and in general, by the problems of having to put up a demanding
production without the support she is accustomed to having and believes
she is entitled to.

To the entertainer success is basically material in nature. To the
sociologist, success means being able to help others. This split of
interest at this particular time results in a split in their relationship. As the
split becomes seemingly irreparable, loneliness creeps in. Are there
alternatives? Are there substitutes? Substitutes seem to answer the
need only for a while. What then are the answers? How to fill the gap?
How to relate to the new person one has grown into, after a maturing
experience?

***
Laurice Guillen has posed a mature question. It is a problem that needs
delving into the psychological into the psychological depths of the
meaning of loneliness, emotional need, and, the character of a
meaningful relationship. She does not dwell on the physical need as
much. People caught in that personal quandary have to satisfy those two
needs before a physical relationship  can flourish.

Art director Raquel Villavicencio has picked up the cue from Director
Guillen. She has chosen very ritzy locales to indicate that all that glitters
is indeed not gold. The pacing is slow. Sometimes, very, very slow. This
is not a failure on the director's part. She intends it to be slow. No earth
shaking event is happening. Psychological realization often comes in a
slow, painful manner. The wearing down is felt. The dizzying effect is
nauseous, but, not manifested clearly to others. The total effect is felt
personally, making it all the painful to the individual.

The problems that touch the deepest of psychological needs are not
explosives. Not torrents. Just searing, acrid, painful, and slow. The
moment when Rollie Quizon and Aunor stare at each other before she
leaves him is one such slow painful moment. In such a situation, five, six,
or ten seconds seem like an eternity. Guillen makes you experience that
eternity.

A mature viewer must try to see the film from the director's point of view.
From her intent. If she succeeds in her intentions, we have no business
imposing our likes and dislikes upon her. Whether we appreciate her
intention or not is another thing. The film, however, should be viewed
from her vantage point.

Further it is wrong to cast aside a director who obviously tried to make a
good, sensible film. This is not a film that exploits sex, violence, comedy,
fantasy, or even propaganda for commercial reasons. This is not a
far-fetched story incredible to the sensible. This is nothing slapdash
about the production. Production demands are many. These are met with
good taste and professional concern. Several scenes are not only
visually thrilling, but difficult to photograph.

NORA Aunor turns in a very fine performance. Muted, mature with
constant flashes of her recognition of the psychological hues and tints of
the experience. Christopher de Leon looks slightly young to be involved
in a masteral thesis but he tones down his usual buoyancy, and, instead
grips himself to communicate the inner turmoils of the character. Rollie
Quizon looks just right as the rich hedonist. He is pale, pallid, languid,
and, just plain spoiled. A person who has no idea of success as he has
been born into it, know no other kind of life except that which he has
been accustomed to. He tends to walk through the role. More
internalization precisely because his role is so external, would have
etched the character more deeply for us.

The film fall into place very well as it progresses. The structure is all very
clear, if one watches and listens. Quite simple. Modern and mature.
Tries very hard, and, succeeds, painfully so.