“Aparisyon” is a devious and clever film.
Its title suggests a movie about heavenly visions in the mold of “Himala” and its trailer promises a dramatic thriller in the mold of “Agnes of God”, the 1985 US movie about a convent rocked by the pregnancy of a mentally unstable novice nun who claims immaculate conception. It’s neither.
The film tells the story of a novice nun who gets raped outside her convent during one of her regular trips to the town. This is the horrific “apparition” referred to in the title and one of the movie’s two big surprises.
The other surprise is how subversively unpopulist the movie’s politics is.
“Aparisyon” chides the religious — or at least the religious of the time — for being all talk and no walk, for being such a cloistered institution, and for failing in its sacred mission to fight evil, both personal and social.
By setting the story in 1971 in the months leading up to the declaration of Martial Law, writer-director Vincent Sandoval seems to be making a case for that Marcosian decree as indeed a necessary move to curb lawlessness and violence, especially from the purported threat of communism.
At least the government did something as an institution, unlike the religious sector, in the face of what was perceived as an evil threat.
“Aparisyon” has an immaculate facade — smooth direction, flawless acting, fluid visuals. It’s what’s on its mind that gives it friction and heat. The final scene is brilliantly chilling in its craftiness.
Yes, everything ultimately coalesces in the head rather than the heart. And that’s not a bad thing at all.
Like “Aparisyon”, Mes de Guzman’s “Diablo” has a deliberately misleading name. It’s not the horror flick that its title and poster suggest.
It’s a slow-moving film that’s a whole lot of something — a psychological study of a lonesome old widow, a domestic drama about sibling rivalry, a passion play about personal sacrifices, and a comedy of errors and ironies.
That’s more than enough material to fill at least three movies. This one feels like it’s that long.
It’s not that not much goes on in “Diablo”. It’s that very few of it is dramatic, or psychological, enough. And the few that are are rendered mute by much that aren’t and by the deliberate pacing of the movie.
So when two of the brothers eventually have a very heated confrontation towards the end of the movie, it feels strangely out of place.
And when the widowed matriarch finally lets out a grievous wail to close the film, it doesn’t come off as the catharsis that it is obviously meant to be.