I know. I didn’t do much justice with my 250-word review of HENERAL LUNA (2015). I was just too overwhelmed after I saw the film, that I was, admittedly, lost for words.
Now that my mind is quite clear to make a more detailed review, allow me to share my three most favorite scenes.
But before that, I just want to point out that I understand other people’s sentiments on the film. Some say that it’s a bit inaccurate, and some scenes were unnecessary. I agree. But having said that, my stand on historical film is that it needs not to be accurate to drive home a point. When one delivers an interpretation of history on screen (or in literature), one has the freedom to divert and re-create reality. That’s the beauty in art. The magic begins when one leaves the movie house and develops the desire to research, to validate, to know more. That is what HENERAL LUNA did to me.
So here are top three scenes:
- THE INITIAL BATTLE SCENE IN KAWIT
From a top medium shot of the barricade, it is clear that this is a no-nonsense film about war. It de-sensationalizes the familiar hollywood war that we know. Tarog didn’t use any music to heighten the scene. All the music we hear are occassional shouts, shots and shits. Reminds me of the opening scene of Spielberg’s SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998).
This scene also establishes Antonio Luna at work. For him, this scorching barricade is his office, his own universe. Here, no bullets frighten him. We get to see how a General sees war and how his soldiers respect or dishonour him. John Arcilla is at his best in this early scene in the film. You feel his comfort and ease amidst the flying bullets and occasional gunshots, and that say so much about him as a man of arms.
2. GENERAL LUNA’S FLASHBACK SCENE
This scores a great deal in the entire film. It presents Antonio’s past, without dismissing other important people in his life and our own history. Here, Tarog orchestrates magical story telling at its finest. For once, the ADHD in me was caught unaware and managed to understand the intricacies of our own history in a few minutes of an engaging monologue. All these taken through a single continuing shot. Animation, dramatic transitions and amazing sense of rhythm, all in an engaging single shot!
Reminds me of David Yates‘ hypnotic rendition of The Tale of Three Brothers in his HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 (2010).
3. ANTONIO’S MELANCHOLIC GUITAR SCENE
This, for me, is the most personal of all scenes in the movie. A well composed mise en scène, as a matter of fact. Of course there were devices scattered throughout the entire plot to humanize the central character, but this is the most powerful of them all. See, all Tarog did was to use Luna and his guitar to establish character. Along with the music that comes from his strings, we see Luna’s blank, detached persona. Makes me wonder if he even hears his own music. But we get hypnotized with him as he strums along.
Along with the music, too, are occasional gunshot sounds off-cam. This is dramatic irony at its finest. Music, being regarded as peaceful, patterned, and embellished becomes juxtaposed to something extremely mysterious, violent and fatal. This scene is very unapologetic, yet delivers home a point; that is – all is fair in romance, nostalgia and war.
With its music and theme, it reminds me of the suite from Carol Reed’s THE THIRD MAN (1949).
At this point, Tarog was able to establish, that, to Luna, both the music and the gunshots were just one and the same. It establishes him as the conquering General that he is. Always fighting, always ready to go to war. Music or bullets, here he comes.
But then again there’s the off screen bangs at the door. You jumped when you saw Luna jump. Who would make such a brave man jump, you ask? And then the Mother enters. She slaps Antonio and embraces him. She tells him to sit down and close his eyes. Without a wink, he obliges. This is another dimension in the ironies that are presented in the scene; That despite our braveries, our insensitiveness and calloused souls, we are but helpless little children when it comes to Mother.
There, I said it, na.
Ikaw, ano mga favorite scenes mo?