Monday, April 12, 2010
Director: Brillante Mendoza
Cast: Coco Martin, Maria Isabel Lopez, Jhong Hilario
Julio Diaz, Mercedes Cabral
Young, police academy, student Peping (Martin) takes a job for $2,000 in order to marry his girlfriend (Cabral).
After leaving school on the appointed day (he's in a criminology class in the first of many Dostoevskian touches the film offers) he gets on a van with a group of men-all his superior officers- who then go to a strip club where they pick up Madonna (Lopez), a dancer who owes them drug money.
After she gets in the car they beat her, drive for hours (literally, the scenes inside the van cover roughly one third of the film's running time) and take her to a basement where they proceed with their plan as a display of extreme violence ensues.
Once there Peping realizes it's too late to back off and enters a path of moral decay through which director Mendoza tries to encompass the state of Filipino society and ask us what we would've done.
Kinatay is not a movie for those who are easily disturbed (the title is Filipino for "butchered"), it features moments straight out of the goriest horror film, paired with dark sociological implications that make the violence seem more shocking.
Shot with handheld cameras and what appears to be a great use of natural light-and darkness-the film tries to put us inside Peping's head and make us see what he sees and hears.
For long moments the screen turns almost completely dark while Mendoza experiments with interesting sonic devices. There is a disturbing ambient sound throughout the movie which suggests the cloudiness that invades the protagonist's conscience as he becomes part of a crime.
It's impossible for audience members not to expect Peping to take an heroic path and when he doesn't Kinatay turns into a cinematic experience unlike many you've had.
It's easy to leave the film and call Mendoza's work pornographic, sensationalist or abusive, but where is our responsibility as active audience members who sit through this?
In a way, like Peping, we are drawn to brutality and even those with the intention of obtaining some sort of knowledge out of the situation are accomplices of sorts.
The entire running time we watch how the events unfold; a feeling of impotence prevails over the entire film as we try to decide whether Peping is antihero, victim or perpetrator.
What Mendoza has to say about the corruption that seeps within law enforcement is really nothing new but what he wonders about the way it vacuums people into its destruction is fascinating.
Could Peping do something? Can we?