Nonoy L. Lauzon
A dose of strange goings-on is found in Mes de Guzman’s Diablo. What should have been a tranquil life for a strong-willed and self-reliant widow living on her own in the family abode in the province is all of a sudden disturbed by visitations. On this premise rests what can be pointed out as the film director’s treatise on growing old—alone and away from the city but not necessarily from its hustle and bustle.
The film is remarkable on two counts. It avoids all intimations of sentimentality in depicting the plight of its principal protagonist – the matriarch of the story and it neither seeks to serve as some pastoral or romantic ode to the beauty of bucolic life.
The mother in the film played with aplomb by Ama Quiambao is a likable character that need not go through, pace Patrick D. Flores, an “aesthetics of sufferance” to elicit sympathy from viewing audiences. The film tracks her journey in the twilight years of her life imbued with quiet grace and wisdom. She does not die in the end.
At the conclusion of the film, she is just like the rest of the living with few scores to settle in the remainder of a hard life. Brought into focus along the way are her inter-personal relationships with each of her brood of boys and her devotion to the memory of her dead husband whom she has reason to presume to have remained a force of presence by her side to guard her against all evil.
It is this distinct type or method of fabrication that the film utilizes to configure drama. Such fabrication eventually requires dispensing with the stereotypes of the usual cinema the better to subvert audience expectations of how stories in this age have to be told.
So in the film, picturesque rural scenes and the regulatory idyllic shots of sunrise and sunset are replaced as prominent visuals by the transistor radio and the food table. The radio is the mother’s conduit to the lurid larger world. The food table is where her boys alternately confer, squabble, and reconcile. When the radio conks out, it is the cue for her to finally break down and retire to bed for one more night of reminiscing. Ultimately, it only by remembering that one is kept alive.