Heneral Luna: Review

Written by: Mark Duque

Film | Oct 17, 2015

Films Heneral Luna Jerrold Tarog

The narrative of the real world is never as clear as fiction. History is written by the victors after all and victors tend to warp the truth. Those who survive history live to tell the tale and sometimes forget to include the bloody details. In the end, we get this long winded story about a group of people with one singular goal of freeing a nation of godsent people from the EVIL colonizers.

But reality is never as simple. Motivations never line-up as precisely as an airport landing strip and people are never as self-sacrificing as most of our heroic narratives had led us to believe.  Reality is far more complicated and to put the whole narrative of the revolution to a clean good versus evil story like a lit major's first epic in college, is a big dishonor for those who have fallen in service of it. Sugarcoating is best left for those who wish to inspire national pride. But never the best tool when you're trying to wake a nation.

That is where Jerrold Tarrog's Heneral Luna shines. It doesn't feed you history in a dough sprinkled with synthetic sweeteners. It passes you a glass history like whiskey on the rocks, smooth and straight, burning you from the inside and giving you warmth in the dead of the cold depressing night we call our society.

The film doesn't go through the route of past heroic films such as Mark Meily's El Presidente and Marilou Diaz-Abaya's Rizal of glorifying the central character. (Though I found those movies well executed in every form, they still reduce their characters to textbook figures than actually exploring their layers of humanity.) Instead, it strips these so-called heroes of their iconic facades and present them to be as susceptible to the human condition as everybody else.

It's not a story of heroes fighting the good fight and bringing down evil like most heroic stories of the industry. Instead, it's a story of the people who are living their lives during the time of the Philippine revolution, portraying not the glorious accounts of the victor, but the chicken scratch report of people who witness the events with their unbiased eyes.

John Arcilla's portrayal of Antonio Luna was more of a theatric interpretation of the character than a historical one. He explored the madness and the ruthlessness of the revolutionary general yet still showed the softer side behind the fangs. He respected the character enough to make him vulnerable for the audience to see how human Luna is than what we perceived him to be.

The film also treats us to a plethora of great actors as well. From Epy Quizon's spot-on performance as Apolinario Mabini, Archie Alemania's Capitan Eduardo Rusca who, surprisingly, pulled off being a comic relief character without diverting from the mood of the film, Mon Confiado's Emilio Aguinaldo, who, in my opinion, did a better job at giving life to the first president in his few minutes on screen than other films dedicated to the president, and everyone else in between. Though, if I am given some room to nit-pick, I found Arron Villaflor's innocent personality like a sore thumb in the sea of gritty men. Some would argue that this was intentional, that his fictional character was meant to represent the youth of the country. But even with that character layer on top, he still seemed out of place.

Tarrog didn't sacrifice quality to get his message across either. Cinematography and the choice of color pallet highlight moods of every scene perfectly accompanied with the epic soundtrack that Tarrog composed himself.  The masterful execution makes the whole movie more epic than its actual historical scope. 

Though what is a historic film if it doesn't teach its audiences the mistakes of the past right? Well, that's where Heneral Luna really drives the ball home. Though the film is set more than a hundred years in the past, majority of the issues in the film is still present in our society. Issues like regionalist mentality, prioritization of capitalism than national growth and over all crab mentality where discussions for such topics always ends with the phrase "kaya hindi umuunlad ang Pilipinas".

Overall, the film is a good shot of whiskey. Few are so bold as to dissect Antonio Luna and the nation in general without pushing an agenda other than that the people need to know. The movie is far from being historically accurate but it served its purpose as to provoke discussions on national issues among its audience. This is certainly not last time we'll see Articulo Uno Productions in the limelight. With such a great turnout in the box office, especially with the help of social media and word of mouth, the next film is surely going to be made. Paulo Avelino's Gregorio del Pilar will have huge shoes to fill.

About the author: Mark Duque

Multimedia Editor. Mark is an avid player of games that his friends don't play. Happily in a relationship with a unicorn. Game development hobbyist and corporate art monkey by trade.

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