TOTAL AND PARTIAL ECLIPSES OF THE HEART
Tito Genova Valiente
Three characters stand in the middle of a small space, a hut behind them and the woods unbeknownst, it seems, before them. These three individuals will not leave the circle, marked by a light that makes the space seem infinite because one does not see its boundaries. Every now and then, the sound of the armalites and the other noises echo from afar. Dogs bay and howl determining other territories.
Welcome to the ideologies and romance of Jun Lana. In this film called Anino sa Likod ng Buwan. Lana explores the politics of the countryside, where militarization has pushed pushed people out of their homes into settlements. The “rebels,” for that is how we still call them, remain in the periphery, out there in the dense forests or at uncharted and hostile farms. Every now and then, one of them is caught by the military and pieces of information filter into the army camps; otherwise, there seems to be no reason for soldiers to stay in these villages.
Who was it who said that all it takes for a piece of theater to happen is to have a space, and allow a person to walk through that space while another person watches? In Anino, Lana places three characters in a limited, tiny space, with us watching and a theater and cinema get engaged. For the film, Anino breaches any concept of what is theatrical and cinematic, and situates in the fusion a story that packs metaphors and metonyms, psychology and politics, with the density and mystery of a confession and a public condemnation.
The film opens with Emma bathing in the dark, save a sliver of light outlining her figure. She wraps herself up and walks away, her frame seen through dry twigs and branches. The camera stalks her like a rapist about to jump and ravage her. She reaches the shack where she lives with Nando. Joel, an army man, is with them. Joel has struck a friendship with the couple. We feel the comfort and also sense unease that these three people feel with each other.
The military man appears to be safe with the couple, deep in this place called Marag. Talks of counter-insurgency and sexuality penetrate this circle. The army man taking a leak is surprised by the husband of the young girl. They talk about size of sexual organs.
The wife joins in the conversation, reminding the military how she approachd him once while he was also urinating and how she saw his penis. Candor and malice hyperventilate in the homoerotica of the banter. Somehow, the three persons are not constraining the exchange to sexual display, they are also on their way to stripping the selves to show something deep, and dark and unexpected.
Something does happen: When Nando leaves to fetch water and Joel and Emma are left in the house, the two grab each other like animals in heat. What follows is a most graphic sex scene even without genital exposure. We are voyeurs, accomplices and moral arbiters watching Joel and Emma experiencing the most satisfying of sexual bout. The moon does not look over these two lovers as there is no line for love between these two bodies. The windows of the house remain open; we fear for the two being caught. And yet we are also exited by the thought that Nando may just be in the darkness, waiting for the right time to catch the two and kill them, pure cheat and not idealized star-crossed mates.
And yet the night – and here the romantic elements of the story surge—holds far deeper secret.
Nando comes back to the house. The thread unspools: Nando and Emma are not husband and wife. And yet Nando cares for Emma. And yet Nando asks why Emma does not seem to care for him. The two reach a decision to leave the house. Someone is waiting for them out in the woods. Joel comes back and tells Nando and Emma he knows who they are. Joel also tells them he knows the man waiting for them outside. Joel, in fact, has added to his collection of teeth the tooth of Andres, the man who is on assignation with Nando and Emma.
If Anino… was a story of love triangle, the film would plunder our sensibility with its amorality. But the plot of Anino on lust and love hides behind the light and shadow of individuals who do not subject their life to destinies but to the more convoluted system of political expediency set against personal psychology desires.
The three characters—Joel, Nando and Emma—must be one of the most webbed minds in Philippine cinema. This is the function of the compelling screenplay and direction of Jun Lana that they imbue the characters with the palpable capacity to write their own life, risk that life with decisions that are instinctive now and judicious next, and find an angle to wrestle with the conflicts they have created in the process of living that life.
The direction of Jun Lana has provided the three actors—Luis Alandy, Anthony Flacon, and LJ Reyes—with varied and strong scenario to tell the story of their characters.
As Nando, Anthony Falcon, has once more reminded us how he has remained underrated as an actor. In Loy Arcena’s Requieme, he is the transvestite, in Dodo Dayao’s Violator, he is the hot policeman making love as if there is no crime rate in this world. In Anino, Falcon is Nando, almost tubercular and unattractive whose ideology he has started wearing on his sleeve because he cannot wear his heart out. When he does open his feelings for Emma, Nando checks it against the very purpose of his being there in the hut with the woman, and the military man.
Luis Alandy does a convincing turn as Joel, the soldier who is extra solicitous to the impoverished couple. He pilfers food from the military ration to share with Nando and Emma. As the camera turns around and around him, repeating the motif of circular light surrounded b darkness, we spy a face that shifts with the available light, a glint and a glare that convince and seduce. In Alandy can be accessed the duplicitous nature of the military man; he descends upon the community with the strength of an occupier and, the next day, the gentility of a social worker. Alandy packs in a highly taut and sensual body ultimately the power of the military to subjugate the female body and the gaze of those male who long for those male. In an extended sex scene with LJ Reyes as Emma, Luis Alandy does not disappointat all with each thrust that could have been nurtured by a dominant sexuality.
LJ is Emma, the woman caught between what Joel protects openly and Nando hides. When she gives in to her libido, LJ Reyes as Emma satisfies the prurient in the viewer. But if Nando has reason for staying away for a long time so Joel and Emma could satisfy their urges, Emma has a just cause for using her body, and that awakens the subversive in us. Alternating between a woman terribly in love to on instinctively protective of her lover and her comrade, LJ Reyes sweeps the screen with her voluptuousness and vulnerability. As we scorn her for being a woman lured and made weak by carnality, we find a person principled to the point of recklessness. She is female and feral.
Anino sa Likod ng Buwan brilliantly uses the shadow of love to lure us into the light of political folk tales this side of the moon.
ANINO SA LIKOD NG BUWAN (2015) Direction and Screenplay JUN ROBLES LANA; Production Design TONEE ACEJO; Cinematography CARLO MENDOZA; Editing LAWRENCE S. ANG; Sound MICHAEL IDIOMA, IMMAN VERONA, ALEX TOMBOC, BEBET CASAS; Cast LUIS ALANDY (Joel), ANTHONY FALCON (Nando) and LJ REYES (Emma); Produced by APT ENTERTAINMENT, THE IDEA FIRST COMPANY, OCTOBERTRAIN FILMS; Black & White/ Running Time 1:57
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