[Continuation of my previous post on Diaz-Abaya's film, Jose Rizal.]
Here is the firing squad execution scene. No surprises on the film’s ending. I will say that getting to the execution, post faux trial is well paced and wonderfully wrought.
OK. Back to my original question of who Marilou Diaz-Abaya envisioned as a target audience for Jose Rizal. DVD extras tell us this film’s budget was phenomenal by Philippine standards, and that the film was commissioned by the National Centennial Commission. Producers tell us that they wanted to prove to the rest of the world that Philippine filmmakers could also make meticulous and beautiful (by international standards) works of art. I think this international focus is apparent in the writing, which is something of a comprehensive and poetic historical overview, which is different from a “history lesson.”
While I was happy to see the mutual admiration that the Rizal and Andres Bonifacio characters had for each other given their social positioning and respective work, I could have done with an Andres Bonifacio character that was more stoic and fierce than he was youngish in his being all impulse, overzealous, and always it seemed on the verge of distress. I feel like this portrayal of Bonifacio doesn’t jibe with his title of El Supremo.
I was, however, quite happy that one of Diaz-Abaya’s major concerns was to emphasize Rizal the writer, not just in his writing process, his works being influenced by what he’d witnessed, what he knew and read of the Catholic church’s corruption, but more so that Rizal as a writer was effective in his work influencing others to action. Hence, the adulation of Rizal by Bonifacio, who we see organized underground in caves, and in the thick of battle. In the first of the Katipunan/underground scenes, we see many members of the resistance presumably reading Noli Me Tangere, as this text is what is being voiced over.
Certainly, Rizal’s two novels are a central concern in his faux trial, in which his attorney, the wonderfully Castilian Luis Taviel de Andrade, played by a rather Castilian-looking (light eyed, nose of Basque heritage) Filipino actor Jaime Fabregas, points out the contradiction that Mother España is what has made Jose Rizal into what he is, a very eloquent writer of incendiary texts. The scenes between these two, Rizal and Taviel, are touching. Their relationship is so touching, and this develops as Taviel is simply trying to understand the writer and the writing. In reading Rizal’s works, Taviel comes to not only respect the intellectual, but also comes to understand the contradiction of Rizal owing everything he is to Mother España, and still writing so vehemently and critically against Her.
I was also quite happy to have that perfectly fantastic scene between Rizal and his alter ego/novel character Simoun (the new identity of Crisostomo Ibarra in El Filibusterismo) in Rizal’s Fort Santiago prison cell. I dug Simoun’s confrontation or challenge, for Rizal to give Simoun, and hence, himself, a new (amended? alternate? redefined?) meaning to his ending/fate. Joel Torre, the actor who portrays Crisostomo and Simoun, has that kind of hardness and deep ferocity which I’d hoped for Bonifacio’s character. There was some good grit that Rizal, by upbringing and education, just didn’t have so much. I suppose logically, the same would be true of Crisostomo/Simoun, but in creating literature, you can take liberties, imagine other possibilities. And maybe El Filibusterismo is the point of departure between Crisostomo and Rizal. So maybe this scene in the film is meant to mend that rift.
I feel like rather than the walk to the execution scene with Rizal voicing over the Tagalog translation of “Mi último adiós,” rather than the subsequent scenes back in the Katipunan caves with Rizal’s portrait hanging on the cave wall behind Bonifacio, this scene between Rizal and Simoun is the big payoff, for afterwards, we see Rizal back at his writing desk, re-penning the scene in which Simoun’s lamp full of dynamite, rather than being removed from the wedding reception, does indeed explode in the Spanish friar’s face, while Simoun, having just left the reception, stands outside on the cobblestone streets, his wide-eyed face illuminated by the explosion. Very “Consummatum Est,” as were Rizal’s last words in the film before the firing squad.
Eh, see I’m just making stuff up now. I actually haven’t read El Filibusterismo (it isn’t as widely available in the States as Noli Me Tangere is, especially now that the Penguin Books edition has been recently released).