Wednesday, March 1, 2006



by Patrick D. Flores

The taboo of incest bedevils the family in Nasaan Ka Man. This is one peculiar family whose filial ties are veiled and intimated with disquieting vagueness at the film’s inception. Once these are disclosed, the entire venture slides into decline, then decay, and never recovers. But what amazingly holds it is the tension that the ensemble of performers sustains with unnerving intensity. No cast in recent years has been able to redeem a failed scheme like the one we witness in this film. As the strands of the frayed fabric unravel with no respite, as secret after secret is disentangled and illicit liaisons are unknotted in tatters, the nucleus of actors and actresses keeps at it, its energy not exhausted, its valence retaining its integrity.

Confined to a damned abode on a slope in a cold mountain, these hapless souls challenge the specters that threaten the basis of their contaminated kinship. Siblings of elusive origins fall in love; spinsters who become surrogate parents are repressed and raped; the covetous eldest films his trysts with a blind servant and violates the virtue of his own sister; the less favored son comes back as spirit to haunt his beloved; and the patriarch hovers to unfurl a lurid tale.

There is a substantial degree of adulteration here in which volatile elements of perversion and deliverance corrupt what we conceive as custom. And the chemistry of the drama is nearly organic; from Kisapmata to Paradise Inn, in-breeding causes ruin, the fall of the gothic house in the corner or on the hill.

It is a modest tribute to directorial guidance and acting mettle that Hilda Koronel, Gloria Diaz, Jericho Rosales, Claudine Barretto, Diether Ocampo, Irma Adlawan, Katherine Luna, and Dante Rivero rise to the surface of all this coagulation. It is the essential fluid of their performances and passions, specifically the bristling raillery between Koronel and Diaz and the reassuring competence of Rosales who infects the temperaments of the banal Ocampo and the antipathetic Barretto, that distills. It infuses this weary body of film with the blood that overcomes debilitating anemia. In the relentless struggle between what an anthropologist describes as the realm of “purity and danger,” these performers know no fatigue.

(Appeared in Young Critics Circle Film Desk’s Sine-Sipat: Recasting Roles and Images-Stars, Awards and Criticism for 2005, March 2006)

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