Nic Tiongson the dean and professor at the Dept of Mass Comm in UP Diliman is teaching a class in Philippine cinema at Berkeley. We met Nic about four years ago at Pusod in Berkeley. This time around, we are trying to watch the movies.
The first movie that was shown was Malvarosa. In case you are wondering, malvarosa is a plant that has one flower. The movie Malvarosa was a classic melodrama from LVN studios. The script was derived from a serial comicbook.
In many ways, this movie reminds me of the teleserye like "Annalisa" and "Flor de Luna". There were a lot of tragic events which precipitate into a happy ending. The main character is Rosa the youngest daughter of the family. Rosa has five brothers. Four of them were useless pieces of lint. The fifth was the only one worth anything and that was because he’s studying.
The eldest brother is a good-for-nothing womanizer who manages to impregnate and have three children from three different women. Now, the amazing thing is that
even I am more handsome than Melacio, the first-born. But, he manages to fool three women. There is a classic moment in the movie when all three women go to
Rosa’s house so that they can leave their children to Rosa. Did you get that? Yup, the women did not have any money to raise their children so they were going
to leave their children.
The second brother is Alberto who grew up to being called to the church. But, the one fault of Alberto is that he can’t ignore the neighbors talking about
his family. He is constantly taunted by the townspeople and this led to his utter and complete frustration. He ends up trying to rape the woman of his dreams. He then committed suicide.
The third brother is Leonides who is as dumb as a rock. All he does is eat and drink. This guy is classic in his uselessness. After the second brother died, he goes nuts and challenges people in the restaurant. In his death scene, he is shot by a soldier while trying to take a peek out of the window.
While watching the movie’s tragedies, I became physically exhausted. After a while, no character was safe. If they were on the screen, they were going to die or have something bad happen to them. And that was only at the half-point mark.
By the time the fourth brother Vedasto comes up, he’s willing to set-up his sister to a slimeball rich guy just so that he can get a job in the factory. What a sleazeball. We have here a candidate for hell level 3.
The acting is somewhat rudimentary. Shouting and anger passes off as acting skills. There are painful moments where one of the actors seems to have
forgotten his lines. The movie is choppy owing to the fact that the movie was derived from a comicbook. The dialogue is plain and simple.
The great parts are as follows: The movie showed the expectations of a woman’s role in Philippine society in the 1940’s and earlier. The caricature of men is
most likely accurate. The overwhelming role that religion played in society is portrayed most painfully. It made me cringe to hear Rosa say that you can not criticize parents because they are the incarnation of god on earth.
The sexism is absolutely boiling over from the movie to reality. There were many times where I had to wince and groan at the stupidity of the sexism. But, I know in my bone that there was a large kernel of truth in this movie.
And of course, the last scene involves the house burning to the ground. Talk about a lot of tragedies.