Saturday, April 3, 2010

The White Funeral (1997, Sari Dalena)

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Romans 6:4

A lost and troubled bride wanders aimlessly along an expansive white wonderland. Her sister holds the three-meter-long tail of the gown. The latter pauses to take a look at the bouquet thrown by the bride. It is already wilted. The dried branches form a jumbled mess.

A further look at the landscape reveals dried up trees. The whole place seems cursed. Strewn pebbles and stones are all over. A stunning series of images shows how the place was punished. A black-clad malevolent entity is wildly gesturing on top of a church. Sins of unfaithfulness pollute and engulf the whole land. The unexpected punishment comes like a thief in the night. The roaring sound of the torrent, the scary image of the princess of darkness, and superimposed footage of rampaging lahar makes for a memorable, horrific moment.

After the deluge, only a few structures manage to rise above the lahar. There is nary a form of life on the barren earth. Vast farm lands have become a desert. Whole towns are buried and in ruins.

Slowly, there is some life arising. A group of dark-skinned kids crawl towards a gnarled tree. Their faces and bodies transform into a myriad of kaleidoscopic images. A young boy discovers a river and bathes into this refreshing oasis. It signifies the washing of sins from the hearts of the people. Simultaneously, new life springs out from cocoons. Out the people go! Smiling, jumping, and performing a dance of thanksgiving, they were such a joy to watch. It is simply pure bliss captured on film!

Dalena brilliantly used biblical scriptures about people buried in filth and lust, cursed places, and reconciliation to create an inspiring, spiritual movie experience. The uplifting ending resounds to the music of Antonio Vivaldi's Gloria in Excelsis Deo. The excellent music score ups the ante by using Joey Ayala's Walang Hanggang Paalam in the end credits. The Ayala piece has been used in romance films such as Sana Maulit Muli and Donsol but in this film, shot mostly in lahar-ravaged Zambales, the song takes on a new facet. It may also be seen as dealing with God's everlasting love.

A big, big thank you to the UP Film Institute people such as Nonoy, William, Dolly, and Blasilda for persistently screening wonderful films. The short films of Sari and Kiri Dalena serve as a fantastic ender to the celebration of International Women's Month at the UP Film Institute.

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