Review of Mga Anino ng Kahapon (Alvin Yapan, 2013)
Jaime Oscar M. Salazar
Near the beginning of Mga Anino ng Kahapon, Irene (Agot Isidro), a nurse, takes a day off to attend a parent-teacher conference at her son’s school, which apparently proceeds as usual, save for how it concludes: with a short speech from the security chief of their residential subdivision, in which all are reminded, in the wake of a recent burglary in the neighborhood, to be on the alert, and to immediately report any suspicious activity.
Shortly afterward, Irene begins to feel that she and the other members of her household are under scrutiny—something that her husband Ed (TJ Trinidad), also a nurse, occasionally complains of with regard to his supervisors when he makes video calls to her from Dubai, where he has just accepted a position in a bid to better provide for his family. While, with time, Ed appears to adjust to his new environment, Irene only becomes more fearful: she maintains that military agents are keeping watch and displays increasingly erratic behavior in the face of threats that no one else can see or understand, straining her relationships with her loved ones. The camera dwells on locks and chains, doors and walls, fences and cramped spaces, emphasizing the braided notions of confinement, security, and surveillance, and building anxiety in coordination with the guitar-driven score—what mysterious force could be causing Irene’s torment? Things come to a head when she is diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Although co-produced by a pharmaceutical company—Janssen, a division of Johnson & Johnson (Philippines) Inc.—that manufactures medicines for a host of diseases, the topical mental disorder among them, Anino does not unreel like a protracted drug advertisement. Rather, in the hands of prizewinning filmmaker Alvin Yapan, who served as writer and director, it seeks to operate on two levels: literally, as a chronicle of the struggles of a woman in the grip of a difficult affliction, and of the people who have the care of her, towards fostering greater understanding of schizophrenia and its sufferers; and allegorically, as a meditative appraisal of the legacies of the authoritarian rule of Ferdinand Marcos, including the recent, disturbing surge in nostalgia for those dark years—seeming evidence of a collective “split mind”.
The lead actors turn in commendable performances here: Isidro unnerves with her ability to capture and maintain the flat affect that characterizes schizophrenia patients, while Trinidad supplies the emotional heft and texture required to convey the depth of his wife and family’s predicament. Advocacy on behalf of people affected by illness and social critique are imperatives that make for an uneasy fit, however, and the resultant fissures run through Anino: in the scenes that discuss what the disorder is and how it is treated, for instance. Moreover, though the film successfully avoids melodrama and sentiment in its portrayal of the disorder, its restrained tone also prevents it from presenting what might have been a stronger case about the Marcos regime and its place in Philippine history.
Perhaps where the film registers its sharpest commentary in this respect is when Irene and Ed arrive, for the first time, at a meeting of a support group. Volunteering to speak, Irene addresses Ed, trying to explain her initial resistance to treatment: she gives voice to the desire that Ed see her not as a patient to be regarded with impersonal concern, but as a wife. She delights in watching him care for her, wants to be undressed with his eyes, and, most crucially, loves being monitored and stood guard over: “Ed, gustong-gusto ko talaga ‘pag binabantayan mo ako—ang bawat kilos ko.” Is this not the paternalist fantasy with which contemporary political discourse and action are still suffused?
Jaime Oscar M. Salazar is a graduate student of the Department of Art Studies at the University of the Philippines Diliman. He works for an international humanitarian organization.
Editor’s Note: This review is part of a series of reviews of outstanding films of 2013 and 2014 that we will feature here in the run-up to the YCC Citations Ceremony on April 23rd. Earlier reviews have been featured for Badil (here and here), Porno (here and here), Pagpag, Norte: Hangganan ng Kasaysayan, Lauriana, Ang Kwento ni Mabuti, Debosyon, and Quick Change.