Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe (Alvin Yapan, 2009) July 25, 2009Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Cinemalaya, Indie Sine, Noypi.
English Title: The Rapture of Fe
Written and directed by Alvin Yapan
Cast: Irma Adlawan, Nonie Buencamino, TJ Trinidad
There are brilliant hands at work in Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe and those are not just the hands of writer-director Alvin Yapan. The whole thing is a synergy of carefully drawn elements that work together to create an atmosphere of alienating mystery. From the deliberate non-linear editing to the beautiful dolly shots, not to mention the music that rubs like a disease, the buildup gives a rewarding payoff, but it cuts you off abruptly that you start to wonder whether its greatness is real or just a plain and simple dog trick.
Should we consider Yapan’s background, it is not surprising that he values the story strongly. In telling the rapture of Fe there is a commanding authorial hold that follows the pace of an engaging literary work, broad on the surface but tight and lean on its details. The mystery becomes the hook that pulls you in, and the narrative that supports it is the smell of food that leads you to its lair. The Yapan-writer is sheltered and riskless because he knows the way; he is in the zone. He could work on his canvas freely, that’s why he chooses to translate its title as “The Rapture of Fe” rather than “The Rape of Fe” because the latter doesn’t fit. The abuse and despoliation committed to her is one thing; the rapture is another, but more encompassing, not to mention the taboo word: profound.
The Yapan-filmmaker, on the other hand, is vulnerable to stylish indulgence but still pretty much in control. He works on literary metaphors but he still manages to pull them off as cinematic devices. When you take for instance that scene when Fe tries so hard to bury the basket of fruits she received from an unknown suitor, we feel the anxiety and the fear that clouds her heart. Despite her clear conscience she feels helpless to ignore things. It takes a few minutes before the scene ends; we feel how tortured she is, emotionally; how the mystery seems to rob her of escape. Munro may have written that in three or four pages, distant yet wrenching with truthfulness, but Yapan wraps everything in those long minutes, the emotion still solid and real.
A man telling the story of a woman is quite a suspicious thing. I mean, could a bird tell the experience of swimming in the sea like a fish could? Could be, in pure artistic terms. I still believe that Kenji Mizoguchi is the greatest feminist filmmaker in the world because he is a man, not despite of. In Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe Yapan is a man and a woman: on one hand he says that the abuse of women is cliché but true – – more like Thom Yorke singing, we’re not scaremongering, this is really happening, happening – – and on the other she says that escape is a bleak place of unknown future. The Women’s Crisis Center supported the film, which could mean that they approve of it, which could also mean that it flags their idea of how women should be treated. Yapan hides that, but looking closely will reveal everything, like looking at a stereogram long enough to see a 3D image.
I cannot imagine anyone donning the clothes of Fe as varied and nuanced as Irma Adlawan. You see, Adlawan is at the point of her career when she can do nothing wrong; she not only tries different roles, she excels in them. She is the embodiment of the great actor. I must admit that I have Vilma Santos in mind as I write this but that’s because Santos is also a great actor; but she started as a child star, unlike Adlawan whose career in the movies only boomed quite recently. Adlawan could be fairly compared to Santos in the 80s, both in terms of depth and versatility. Now it seems that Santos’s abilities are too limited in the mainstream, unlike Adlawan whose range of roles has given her the exposure she deserves.
She breathes Fe’s conflicting relationship with her husband and childhood lover with certain sensitivity. We see a woman, a fearful woman, not a human dressed in womanly clothes, moving with womanly gestures, speaking in womanly tone, but a woman standing and talking as a woman. Every movement, as little as blinking of an eye or pouring of the sugar, is a universe of expressions when Adlawan does it. Her tenderness is evenly laid out, and her gentle demeanor is unwavering; from start to finish she can never be but her character.
Yapan holds Adlawan, as well as the other aspects of his production, with only one thing in mind: deliver. In his flight as a filmmaker on his own, he not only promises might; he delivers it. Bestiality and rapture travel in separate ways but he lets them meet. The mystery it shows is the mystery that we, as an audience, uniquely create. Not knowing becomes infinitely satisfying, lest we are not afraid of knowing it. On what turns out to be the most disappointing year of Cinemalaya, when it has again proved its refined taste in movies, Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe becomes too prominent to be ignored. It stands out, and it stands best.