Tessa Maria Guazon
Aparisyon (Cinemalaya Foundation and Autodidact Productions)
Directed by Vincent Sandoval
Aparisyon is taut and limber- a film that marries restraint with vibrant energy. While the story is not new it is retold in superbly choreographed suspense. It is a tale where silence is moulded to become a visual motif, a trope that goads, guides, and eventually reveals. In Aparisyon silence is connivance, silence is shallow peace, it is retreat, and Sandoval fashions it in elegant, effortless complexity.
(Warning: Contains spoilers) Novice Lourdes arrives in the Adoration cloister in 1971, a year that saw spectres of oppression by the Marcos regime. Placed in the care of Sister Remy, an extern (one allowed to go out of the cloister for errands in town), Lourdes is drawn into Remy’s ever increasing preoccupation with the outside world. This happens after her elder brother, an activist from university went missing for two months. Remy is torn between vows she took as a nun and the response demanded by the “chaos of the outside world”. Returning late from a town visit, they were accosted by thugs in the forest surrounding the cloister. Lourdes was repeatedly raped.
Abiding their vow of silence, the nuns endure the uneasy peace of the convent’s suddenly guilt-burdened air. Rupture occurs soon after Lourdes births her child from the rape, and martial law was declared. After Sister Vera’s disturbing dreams and visions, the film finally reveals that Mother Superior Ruby and Sister Vera witnessed the rape but were too afraid to halt the perpetrators. Silence then is imaged as blood on their hands, the mark of Lourdes’s death from childbirth which becomes the burden of the cloister, and symptom of the regime’s grave abuses during martial law. A
*Notable performances by Mylene Dizon and Jodi Sta. Maria / Production design and cinematography / Direction