Every film has its strengths and weaknesses. At times they qualify on certain aspects and wane on others because of elusiveness. Ambitiously persistent, the character Sisa is brought again in the limelight. But its light has faded and turned dim. The historical perspective lacks precision. Its elaborate set design is a bit quizzical. The set of clothes looks like a tailoring made for an amateur high school play. Its deliberate use of theatrical style did not correspond to the very aim of the film which is characterization, centered on human emotions. The characters in the film come out as embellishments and caricatures. This material is so grand which needs to be backed by a good financier. But why not give all you got if they believe in their undertaking.
Narcisa "Sisa" Dalangin (Jodi Sta. Maria-Lacson) is a young Filipina lass living during the Spanish Occupation. She lives with her grandmother Ising in a tiny hut. Pedro Magbuhos (Carlo Maceda) tries to get Sisa's empathy. But Juanito (Christian Vasquez) is more esteemed to seize Sisa's heart. Things changed when Pedro disclose a hearsay to the Guardia Civil that Ising is a member of the cult group Confradia. This prompted her to be imprisoned but later dies due to an accident. Soon enough, Sisa was caught by Pedro in the woods and was beaten and eventually she was raped. Then, they were married for that matter and had two children: Basilio and Crispin.
I am quite confounded with the casting of some characters. Padre Damaso (Dido dela Paz) is supposed to be pure Spanish. That character is a complete bastard, but he must possess this imperative charisma in a wicked way which dela Paz has failed to recognize. Dona Consolacion (Aleck Bovick) has achieved a circus-like characterization in terms of makeup but her performance has tendencies to be over-the-top. The director must have guided her in delivering a bitchy attitude with a more humanitarian bearing. Maceda as Pedro is wearing a tight fitting pajama in the entire film which is deeply unappealing. It is just goofy in a way to watch period films with misconceived understanding of accurate clothing. The accessibility is more prioritized than suitable casting. But it is all true that bad casting ruins a great aspect of the film's authenticity and sincerity.
Sisa's character is indeed the most vibrant character in the novel Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not). Aside from her surname, there is nothing new to my senses offered in this film. Andaluz's Sisa lacks vision to give a new perspective of Sisa that will mark his directorial debut. The execution is nothing triumphant. It has a certain feel of dreariness. At some point, you might suspect the directors' lack of confidence over the material itself. Filipino Period Films must enable to convey or let a feel to the audience of a certain degree of authenticity. It did try to experiment with its editing technique to make it more contemporary and appealing to the youth but it is not careful with its function. That is why its result looks cheap and gimmickry. Its zoom lens is all used up just to give some spice to each scene but has not achieved a positive effect that it purportedly put across. Instead, it gives a severe confusion with its technique.
Something that is right in this film is no other than Sta. Maria-Lacson herself as Sisa. I could feel her endeavor to rightly portray a delicate character. Sisa lost her reason and state of mind in the end, indeed. But it's her heart that is most seen. She made us understand the significance of her plight and her passiveness. Her acting is not perfect but it's most favorable I have seen in recent years. And she is an attractive Sisa. This makes me wonder of the implication of the controversial confrontation scene between Rizal and Sisa. Jose Rizal knows Sisa during childhood. Rizal knows that Sisa did have a happy life. Sisa is with her lover contrary to what is narrated in the story and in the film. Although the confrontation is a bit staged, Rizal answers her back that Sisa will forever be in the heart of every Filipino.
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