Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cinemalaya 2013: Debosyon by Alvin Yapan

Debosyon's official poster looks intriguing. The reason behind it is revealed in the film.

We, Filipinos, are naturally devoted to what we believe in. It is naturally part of our culture to be like that. May it be to a religious idol or mythical creatures, passionate devotion could be observed from us. Debosyon, a film directed by Alvin Yapan, gives the viewers the perfect glimpse on how devoted we may be even if it might cost our limbs or even lives.
Set in the present-day Bicol, Mando (Paulo Avelino) devotes himself to the Virgin of Penafrancia. He devotes himself for the sake of good harvest. As harvest season hasn't come yet, Mando makes a living through collecting orchids from a forest and sells them in town. One day, he sees a beautiful orchid. When he tries to get it, he falls from the tree. Saling (Mara Lopez), a kind yet mysterious lady living alone in the forest, helps him. With their love for music, they found themselves in the pits of love. Although Mando is sincerely in love with Saling, Saling remained mysterious. Later on, she reveals the mystery that wraps her, which gave distance between her and Mando. Will Mando get rid of her? Or will he still love her? Debosyon is not story of “falling in love many times and getting hurt each time”, but it gives the viewer an in-depth observation of Filipino culture and devotion.
Debosyon is a story that we may hear from the people dwelling at the countryside. It is something that we read from our childhood days with some kind of depth and maturity behind it. The story was told chronologically. Though after viewing it I almost said, "tapos na" and decided that it should not be told that way, I later realized that it is a good ending because of the emphasis and the weight of words exchanged by Mando and Saling. It pierces through the heart, but at the same time, it will make you really think. In the end, Saling asks Mando why he came back to her. Mando answers that he saw her eyes in the eyes of Virgin of Penafancia. That exchange of words poses a great question for me. Does it mean that he denounces his devotion to the Virgin because of her? Or does that mean that he finds the sincerity of Saling’s love through the eyes of the Virgin? I shall choose the latter.

Paulo Avelino reaching for the Virgin of Penafrancia.

The actors are really superb. Paulo Avelino and Mara Lopez both speak in Bicolano on the film. I believe that they don’t really know how to speak it because of the limited lines, but it does not matter. The limited lines that came out from their mouths keep the film mysterious. Paulo speaks without words and acts really good. If you've seen the trailer, you may recall the scene where he tries to reach the Virgin. In the movie, you'll see how expressive his eyes are that you may hear it talking. Mara Lopez also gave justice to the character. She is able to be very mysterious that you would not even guess the mystery behind her. However, the mystery may be observed through dialogues in the film. I see in Mara that she really is passionate in acting. She even had some scenes where she exposed her torso, but it is really artistic and not erotic or “bastos”. Even their love scene is more on the artistic side rather than the erotic side. Moreover, both of them, Paulo and Mara, are good actors. Both of them give life to the characters.
Aside from the good acting, I'd love to commend the music. I believe that most, if not all, are original. It is in Bicolano, but you'll hear the intensity and feel the emotions. In fact, I would love to hear it on the radio. The music is superb. When it comes to the cinematography, I love how the beauty and mystery of the location are revealed. The colors attract the eye, but the scenery feeds the mind some delicious dinner. The cinematography, direction, and music all together gives the viewer a complete meal for the soul. It keeps the location serene and mysterious.
The plot development, as I mentioned a while ago, is linear. What I like about it is that the intensity is in the end. The answer to the question, which poses more questions, is also there. Although I think a nonlinear development is also good, I guess the linear development works best because it will not exploit the mystery that the film offers. My initial reaction when the film ended is, “Is that it?” In fact, my level of engagement is almost up there but all of a sudden it fell. Anyway, the ending is for us to think about. It does not spoon feed its audience, but it gives you the chance to think especially in the end. I still see it as the best because the conclusion is in the hands of the audience. The credits actually gave me the chance to think it over and say that the ending really fits it. The credits will also give you time to conclude and decipher the symbolism in the film. For now, the only problem I see is that it develops slowly. But then, I think the reason behind it is to build the relationship between the protagonists better.
Catch Debosyon on those dates. 
Debosyon looks like just another film about devoting oneself to a patron saint, but you will really be surprised on how it became a different love story. Although the theme has been tackled many times on TV and film, there is till the indie touch to it. Debosyon is just perfect for film because if it resulted to a teleserye, it would be over-dramatized, which might miss to give the feel of mystery and authenticity. In the end, I thought it lacks something, but if you'll think of it, you'll see that it already is enough. It shows our culture. It shows that we don't just believe, but we worship instead. Moreover, it is a story of true love and what it takes to be really devoted to the one you love. Debosyon will give you a lot to think about and if you're wondering why the poster looks like that, you'll know why. Over all, Debosyon is a love story, but not just a love story. It explores our culture. It explores our faith. It showcases art, most of all.

Watch Debosyon's trailer:


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