There is an abundance of excellent performances in the Cinemalaya 2017 entry Sa Gabing Nanahimik ang mga Kuliglig (Clouds of Plague).
Headlined by Angel Aquino (as Magda) and Jake Macapagal (as Father Romi), the stellar cast makes it easy to feel the anguish of Magda over killing Dolores (played by Mercedes Cabral) out of anger and jealousy; and the crisis of conscience that Father Romi encounters between honoring the seal of confession and standing up for justice.
Jake Macapagal as Fr. Romi
It is a daily dilemma that takes many forms and that we wrestle with. Ricky Davao is incandescent as Hector, Dolores’ husband, who experiences a barrage of emotions: he genuinely mourns his wife’s death and seeks for answers.
Ricky Davao (right) as Hector
Anthony Falcon (Rene) portrays the police officer without reverting to a caricature.
Anthony Falcon (left) as Rene and Jess Mendoza as Lester
Jess Mendoza (Lester) and Sam Quintana (Nonoy) play off each other well, as the sacristan and Dolores’ son, respectively. These newcomers are very low-key and hold their own opposite the seasoned members of the cast. The banter between them is also very natural and, one mundane scene becomes a little lighter because of playful jabs they take at each other.
The first part of the movie catches our attention because of the symbolisms related to Catholic Holy Week observances like washing the feet and the Way of the Cross, and the unraveling of the story of Magda and her husband’s affair that leads to murder.
The traditional practices are made more interesting because they are performed in a small town and by the sea, in Palawan. However, these scenes play out almost consistently like a tableau, so that details may easily be overlooked. The problematic cinematography also contributes to this.
When you have talented actors delivering crucial lines, sometimes, they are shrouded in darkness, and other parts of the shot are illuminated--nicely illuminated, but the attention veers away from the actors somehow. Yet, there is evidence of inspired cinematography in the filtering of the light from the confessional, for example, and the just-right illumination during outdoor daylight scenes.
It should be acknowledged that in the first sequence, there are inaccuracies in the scene at Mass with real-life Catholic practices.
There are also strokes of genius in shot composition, for example, capturing a conversation between Father Romi and Nonoy through a divider with a cutout in the form of a cross that stands between the camera and the two actors. But there are also experiments in shot composition that defy rules that are jarring.
Almost all of the characters have dream sequences and these are very telling devices for giving the audience insights on what is going on in the minds of the characters.
When the movie abandons the parallels between real-life action and religious practices, it falls into normal storytelling. This is not entirely a bad thing, but it makes the storytelling lopsided. The surprises that come our way, though, hold our interest.
The first shot and the last shot of the movie are closely related and this writer appreciates that writer-director Iar Arondaing did not feel the need to follow a very linear way of storytelling and did not feel the need to resolve everything into one neat package in the end.
Sa Gabing Nanahimik ang mga Kuliglig is one of the entries of Cinemalaya 2017, which is ongoing until August 13. It is being screened at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and Ayala Malls cinemas namely Greenbelt 1, Glorietta 4, UP Town Center, Trinoma, Fairview Terraces, and Marquee Mall in Pampanga.
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial staff.