Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dementia: Into the dark, racking realm of paranoia

Film Review:  DEMENTIA

By Arvin Mendoza
INQUIRER.ne

““Dementia” is heart-wrenching poetry in picture. Its visual verses beguile the senses to absorb the character’s prosaic state, rhymed with its aural rhythms lulling the terror that looms ahead.”

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Source: http://entertainment.inquirer.net/153717/dementia-into-the-dark-racking-realm-of-paranoia

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MANILA, Philippines—Filmed in ethereal color and yet imbued with a spine-chilling atmosphere, Percival Intalan’s “Dementia” successfully thrusts the viewers into the dark, racking realm of paranoia.

As Intalan’s directorial debut, it spares no one—the moment they step out the theater—from wondering about the malefic prospects if such cognitive impairment hits them over time.

The movie evidently swerves from old-hat, cut-and-dried storylines that many scary movies offer. It is apparent Intalan wants to evade this usual drawback by creating a grisly dramatic tableau painting the life of Mara Fabre (Nora Aunor), a semi-retired teacher that has been struggling with dementia.

The attempt to remedy her mental decay becomes the narrative dawn, the point that leads to the restitution of her weeping past.

And Batanes couldn’t be a better place of gloom.

A sad poetry

The unadulterated and breath-taking landscape of the province welcomes Mara as she returns to her old house, with the help of her cousin, Elaine (Bing Loyzaga).

Elaine, together with her husband Rommel (Yul Servo) and daughter Rachel (Jasmine Curtis-Smith), takes the responsibility of attending to the needs of Mara, whose mind has become warped by a troubling infirmity.

“Dementia” is heart-wrenching poetry in picture. Its visual verses beguile the senses to absorb the character’s prosaic state, rhymed with its aural rhythms lulling the terror that looms ahead.

One might say that the film revolves much around Mara’s history, and that the other characters’ personal backgrounds are not explored. But it seems to be Intalan’s pure intention.

Mara’s homecoming triggers the unspooling of her dreadful memories. She starts to hallucinate, ecstatically following a miscreant little girl every time she sees the latter. At this point, she turns the delusion into reality; the apparition, unbeknownst to her, banefully portends an imminent danger.

Perhaps due to the time constraints, the focus on Mara is what the film only needs throughout its entire duration.

While “Dementia” gets short of narrative layers among its main characters, the revelation surrounding Mara’s past compensated for anything that lacks. The effectual brunt of her haunting memories is enough to rip the bones with crippling strength.

Gritty performances

Servo’s confrontation with Aunor is short, and unnecessary. It surely tips off a bitter history between the two, but such isn’t completely explained. It just leaves the viewers in the doldrums, curious about a certain conflict that happened before.

The film could have developed more an additional speck of drama with that storyline. But still, Servo’s portrayal of an agitated, cranky father is quite convincing.

Loyzaga’s natural flair also adds up to the ominous thrill of the movie. Her calculated role spices up the heavy tension among the family, bolstering the main predicament up to the climax.

Despite her insipid lines and bored attitude on the early parts of the film, Jasmine Curtis-Smith as Rachel proves herself worthy as she becomes entangled in the maelstrom of events.

Curtis-Smith is able to make much of her nuanced act just in time when her character fully commits in the story.

Of course, the sterling performance of Nora Aunor never disappoints. Her personal tragedy serves as the leverage in which the diabolical mood of the film lies.

Even with only few dialogues, her deep visage projects the whole tapestry of her dim, fragile mind. At many instances, she effortlessly gesticulates Mara’s leanings and dispositions. Her abysmal eyes boldly shout her soul’s remorse, solitude, fear and throes altogether, especially on one particular scene at the cemetery.

Looking glass

Much can be said from Intalan’s exploit of Batanes’ sprawling terra firma, where steep boulders and cliffs provide a powerful dismal ambience for the film. Every earthy element was greatly captured—the swash of the billowing waves, the whoosh of the mournful wind, the hum of creatures hovering over the firmament.

With a baffling twist at the end, the film inadvertently posits itself as a subtle looking glass, where one can look through a person’s troubled brain.
“Dementia” may not be as solidly horrifying as it can be, but it does disturb the deep recesses of the psyche more than anything else.

‘Dementia’ packs a solid emotional wallop

Film Frview:  DEMENTIA

By Eric T. Cabahug

“Dementia is that rare Filipino horror drama that packs a solid emotional wallop. You won’t forget it soon after leaving the theater. A lot of it has to do with debuting filmmaker Perci Intalan’s mostly firm grip on his material and his relatively sophisticated approach in presenting it.”

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“Dementia” is that rare Filipino horror drama that packs a solid emotional wallop. You won’t forget it soon after leaving the theater.

A lot of it has to do with debuting filmmaker Perci Intalan’s mostly firm grip on his material and his relatively sophisticated approach in presenting it. The former TV5 executive does not reinvent the horror wheel by any means. Rather he spins it very deftly and very efficiently all around.

So that when the all-too familiar scares, or scare tactics, come, and there are plenty (candles blowing out by themselves, doors shutting on their own, ghosts appearing from behind, ghosts coming at people very deliberately, menacingly), each serves its purpose of providing genuine jolts.

But jolts alone do not an effective horror movie make. Environment and atmosphere are the real keys. And here is where Intalan’s bigger achievement lies.

With excellent work by his cinematographer, production designer, and musical scorer, he was able to provide the kind of space of building mystery and escalating dread that the tale his writers gave him required.

This is fully captured in the main friction that drives and ignites the movie — its vision of Batanes, where the story is set, as a place of terrifying wintry beauty and the fiery psychological wounds that consume the heart and mind of the story’s central character.

That would be Mara, an elderly woman grappling with an early onset of dementia that leaves her unable to remember much. But when a (literal and figurative) ghost from her traumatic distant past comes to haunt her and the only living family she has, the memories come crashing violently like strong waves hitting the jagged rocks along Batanes’ seaside cliffs.

Nora Aunor totally matches the swirling forces of nature on display throughout the movie with a dervish of a performance that involves very little spoken dialogue.

It’s mostly ferociously internal until the devastating climax where, still wordless, her face erupts into a panorama of heartbreak, anguish, sorrow, guilt, regret, terror, and, finally, resignation and surrender. It’s unforgettable.


The movie is far from perfect and the epilogue, which either affirms the story’s vision or turns it on its head, may be too ambiguous for its own good. No matter. “Dementia,” anchored by another genius turn from Aunor under Intalan’s surefooted, confident direction, will stay with you.

Dementia (Perci Intalan, 2014)

Film Review:  DEMENTIA

By Lyndon Maburaot

“Perci Intalan is precise down to the dot, his achievement here are his pacing and control of the material, so unbelievable for a first-time helmer. His sensibility is obviously mainstream, giving in to the demands of the genre: banshee, jump scare, dolls. But it is during his quieter scenes that he shows ability, the deftness is in the way he blocks a scene and how he positions the camera with regards to the characters.”

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Nora Aunor’s turn in Dementia is more of a reminder how innately gifted she is as a thespian. This reminder is what fuels her here. See how she conveys myriad of emotions in one scene when she finally remembers the memory she is trying to erase, all done with economy of facial movement, leaving the eyes – those eyes! – be, just be, to do what they do best alone.  This may not be among her most memorable screen time of late (her turns in both Thy Womb and Mabuti are, and to some extent in earlier Lamangan’s Hustisya (here in Dementia, she is left with no complex dimensions to work on, only a haunting past that is revealed too late to really affect the viewers), but the reminder is there, and enough. Among the supports, Bing Loyzaga delivers a credible, well-lived performance so new from her usual roles. Her Elaine is sort of anchor and go-between, taking to Mara  and her needs, as well as to her daughter and husband, both not in synch with the former.

Writer Renei Dimla is meticulous, churning out screenplays whose sequences are long, and within each are mundane activities suggesting passage of time. What other screenwriters try to achieve in five or more sequences she tries in one, the effect on paper when read is documentary-like in their matter-of-factness. Her Palanca-winning screenplay, Katay, about a neighborhood of carnapers has only about eight sequences throughout, merely documenting a feast day in the neighborhood. The first half of Dementia employs this style, which gives the film richly detailed nuances, until it gives way to shorter, immediate scenes as the climax nears.

Perci Intalan is precise down to the dot, his achievement here are his pacing and control of the material, so unbelievable for a first-time helmer. His sensibility is obviously mainstream, giving in to the demands of the genre: banshee, jump scare, dolls. But it is during his quieter scenes that he shows ability, the deftness is in the way he blocks a scene and how he positions the camera with regards to the characters. He is a visual storyteller, knowing when to pan the camera, when to shoot a scene steadily, when to cut in the middle of the scene to show another telling angle. Observe how, in one scene near the climax, he edits a scene to show Rachel (Jasmine Curtis in lusterless performance) stab his father with a scissor. Swiftly, Intalan cuts to another angle in time  to catch Rommel (Yul Servo) fall to the floor, his collapse towards the new position of the camera, so that his head is in the foreground, and the body with a protruding scissor so visibly center, while farthest is Rachel, reacting to what has just happened. Such precisions of blocking are ample throughout the film you sometimes remember Carlitos Siguion- Reyna, only that Intalan is subtle and realistic, like Jeffrey Jeturian.

Dementia wraps up effectively with the best scene yet. After the story has settled down, it presents a coda – Mara in a clinic years earlier – that disorients you from all angles. The Mara here is unfamiliarly stern. She is writing a journal of her past, while her looming sickness is not yet taking over. She commits her memories to the blank pages of the journal, thus immortalizing her story. Then she erases a word she has written, one word. It takes only that one word to let us know, only this time throughout the film, why years later she doesn’t want to remember.


8 stars

Precarious Memories

Film Review:  DEMENTIA

By Fred Hawson

“Dementia does not have the garish and noisy shock effects that we see in most mainstream Filipino horror films. Instead, its unnerving quietness which effectively communicates a sense of danger, on top of the compelling lead performance of Ms. Nora Aunor, gives this film high marks of cinematic excellence.”

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Mara Fabre (Nora Aunor) has been diagnosed with early stage dementia. She was brought back to her remote hometown in Batanes by her cousin Elaine (Bing Loyzaga) to help her recover her memories. Mara keeps getting visions of a playful little girl or a masked bride, whom she called Olivia. As the Olivia's ghostly games become more sinister, will Mara and Elaine's family be able to escape with their sanity or their lives?

The script was written by Renei Dimla from a story by Jun Lana. The back story behind the ghostly apparitions was well-told, albeit using a convenient device to tell the whole tale. I liked the subtlety the script used to deal with Mara's immediate past before dementia, with a short but telling scene with Elaine's husband Rommel (Yul Servo) and the thought-provoking epilogue scene. Yet at the same time I was wished for more details. I liked those unique props like the stone with a hole, the jigsaw puzzle, and the Ivatan grass raincoat.

Despite its good points, "Dementia" also utilized many familiar Pinoy horror film staples -- the classic white lady, the empty rooms lit by candles, scratching on the floor, the cemetery scene, the loud swelling instrumental and even choral music to emphasize a scary moment. It also had a scene with the over-used Asian ghostly image of a female in white crawling towards the victim at one point, which I wished it won't but did.

As always though, Nora Aunor can elevate any script to a higher level. She was mostly quiet here because of her mental disability, but her screen presence was really riveting despite her limited lines. As we all know, her eyes and her face speak eloquently by themselves.

Of the supporting cast, Chynna Ortaleza was surreally affecting as the disturbed Olivia, especially in those scenes before she was a ghost. Jasmin Curtis-Smith stands out as Rachel, Elaine's spoiled American-raised daughter, who also later shared Mara's ghostly visions. Althea Vega was effectively cast as a young Nora Aunor. The similarity of their vocal quality was uncanny.

Percival Intalan, in his directorial debut, made full advantage of the mysteriousness of his Batanes setting to tell the story in "Dementia". The old stone houses, the regular interruption of electricity service by 9 pm, the isolation from neighbors, the windswept violent coastline and precarious cliffs -- all were perfect to build up the tension and suspense necessary for a film like this succeed.

"Dementia" does not have the garish and noisy shock effects that we see in most mainstream Filipino horror films. Instead, its unnerving quietness which effectively communicates a sense of danger, on top of the compelling lead performance of Ms. Nora Aunor, gives this film high marks of cinematic excellence.

Lest we forget, the other highlight of the film aside from La Aunor is Chynna Ortaleza, who plays the mysterious ghost that causes malevolence among the household. Ortaleza redefines crazy. We need to see more of her in challenging roles, which reminds me of the sad fact that she had to endure her helpline volunteer character in #Y that resulted into caricature. And that’s not entirely her fault.

Some minor setbacks hinder the film from being a full-pledge chiller, such as the vague reference to Mara’s resentment towards Rommel, or the shaman character (Lui Manansala) who readily gives up on exorcism. Yes there is an exorcism. Sort of.

But when I think of how well the shots are mounted, like when Mara bides her time building her puzzle (yes, an actual jigsaw puzzle), I maybe able to forgo the lapses in the story. Plus, the flashback sequence is quite heartbreaking, and unexpected.

For a first time filmmaker, Perci Intalan proves to be a capable one. There is room for improvement but that fact makes the experience more exciting, more rewarding. Thank the Heavens that after a long time, we can finally watch a decent local horror film that does not rob us of our hard-earned money, or our self-respect.


RATING: 4/5

DEMENTIA (Percival Intalan, 2014)

Film Review:  DEMENTIA

By:  Macky Macarayan

“Cinematographer Mackie Galvez (Sana Dati) captures the visual tone that complements the story’s demands, and levels with the acting caliber of Nora Aunor.”

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A boat approaches toward a huge slab stone of an island, the rock solid formations commanding a visual dread of the unknown. The boat docks, and we see the familiar face of Nora Aunor disembarking from the vessel. At the onset of DEMENTIA, Perci Intalan readily lays the groundwork for a thriller that benefits greatly from its picturesque location.

Shot in Batanes, a dreamy place rarely seen on film except for KADIN (THE GOAT) and BATANES, both films by Adolfo Borinaga Alix, Jr., DEMENTIA maximizes the haunting beauty of its location and underneath the majesty of every shot of the cliff overlooking the sea, of waves crashing, of secluded forest trails, of every lagoon, of the ancestral home and even the cemetery is a knowing fear, or at least a shiver of restlessness. Cinematographer Mackie Galvez (SANA DATI) captures the visual tone that complements the story’s demands, and levels with the acting caliber of Nora Aunor.

La Aunor plays Mara Fabre, a woman whose mental faculties are slowly disintegrating. Her niece, Eleina (Bing Loyzaga) brings her back to the house she grew up in, hoping that Mara’s mental condition will improve. Mara only recognizes Eleina, much to the dismay of Eleina’s husband Rommel (Yul Servo) and daughter Rachel (Jasmine Curtis-Smith), both of whom are stranded on the island to do Eleina’s bidding.

As soon as Mara settles into their ancestral home, weird events begin to manifest. She sees a young girl who seemingly wants to play. A poltergeist may be in the room with her. A woman dressed in matrimonial white appears everywhere. Clearly this is not the vacation everybody hoped for.

The Superstar shines best in her moments of silence, and silence runs aplenty in dementia. Mara can be seen mostly wandering around the surroundings, studying every wall, every detail of their house. Her curiosity sparks our curiosity. And such controlled performance, as when Mara placidly wanders her gaze in her immediate surrounding, as if trying to search for something that isn’t there can only come from La Aunor. The woman has been a known expert at underacting, and this mood piece could not have come at a better time for her, after the love-it/hate-it critical reception to the outrageous HUSTISYA by Joel Lamangan. Mara, when she is at loss for words, is cinematic beauty.

But what secret does the house, or the island hold for Mara? Clearly, Mara is the key to solve the riddle that is DEMENTIA, and I liked the film more because the hero of the film is an unreliable one. Her memory fails her. And we don’t know when the heck she is going to start getting her act together.

Jasmine Curtis-Smith, who plays Rachel, one of the crucial players in the plot does her best to play the spoiled American-raised young lady who quickly becomes one of the defenders of her Aunt Mara from her tormentors. A friend of mine had wanted a more seasoned young actress to replace Curtis-Smith, given that most of her scenes are with Nora Aunor. I say, give the girl a chance, whom we last saw in another notable performance in Hannah Espia’s TRANSIT, but yes, it does make you think of other actresses for Rachel’s role.

Lest we forget, the other highlight of the film aside from La Aunor is Chynna Ortaleza, who plays the mysterious ghost that causes malevolence among the household. Ortaleza redefines crazy. We need to see more of her in challenging roles, which reminds me of the sad fact that she had to endure her helpline volunteer character in #Y that resulted into caricature. And that’s not entirely her fault.

Some minor setbacks hinder the film from being a full-pledge chiller, such as the vague reference to Mara’s resentment towards Rommel, or the shaman character (Lui Manansala) who readily gives up on exorcism. Yes there is an exorcism. Sort of.

But when I think of how well the shots are mounted, like when Mara bides her time building her puzzle (yes, an actual jigsaw puzzle), I maybe able to forgo the lapses in the story. Plus, the flashback sequence is quite heartbreaking, and unexpected.

For a first time filmmaker, Perci Intalan proves to be a capable one. There is room for improvement but that fact makes the experience more exciting, more rewarding. Thank the Heavens that after a long time, we can finally watch a decent local horror film that does not rob us of our hard-earned money, or our self-respect.


RATING: 4/5

MOVIEHOUSE MADNESS: Dementia

Film Review:  DEMENTIA


“A rarity in Pinoy horror genre, Dementia stays away from blood & hysterics, instead, it capitalizes on the gothic setting & tension. Nora Aunor blows us away with her mesmerizing non-verbal performances, that we pardon the average plot  – something that the usual nitpicking critic will tear apart if it wasn’t for Aunor’s superb acting and Intalan’s impressive direction.”

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STRAIGHT TO THE POINT:  A rarity in Pinoy horror genre, Dementia stays away from blood & hysterics, instead, it capitalizes on the gothic setting & tension. Nora Aunor blows us away with her mesmerizing non-verbal performances, that we pardon the average plot  - something that the usual nitpicking critic will tear apart if it wasn't for Aunor's superb acting and Intalan's impressive direction.


Directed by: Percival Intalan (directorial debut)
Screenplay/Story:  Renei Dimla, Jun Lana
Starring:  Nora Aunor, Jasmine Curtis-Smith, Bing Loyzaga, Yul Servo, Chynna Ortaleza

It's so hard for me to take Filipino horror films seriously what with their typical borrowed Hollywood formula that fails so miserably, cheap CGI & scare tactics, and untalented actors mainly cast for their face value/celebrity status more than anything else, to cite a few reasons. I remember laughing so hard at Pagpag: Siyam na Buhay or Dalaw (at Kris Aquino, more than anything else), that my mind registers "comedy" whenever I see a Pinoy horror movie showing in the cinemas. Dementia, is something else.



Not knowing anything much about it except that it's starring Ms. Nora Aunor, it was just a stroke of luck that I found out it's already showing in theaters - just twice a day though, in the mornings. I grabbed the chance. With my mom tagging along, we waited at the entrance for the mall to open up, and stood in line patiently as senior citizens line up to avail their free movie. After getting the tickets, we hurried up excitedly and went inside Cinema 2 and had the entire theater to ourselves. You heard right. It's only me and my mom. Not one living soul can be seen anywhere. It was creepy. And when the movie started, showing a bunch of gothic scenery, I kinda missed the chaos a jam-packed theater offers.

My Review:

Intalan sets the mood right with a bunch of amazing shots, showcasing the somber beauty of the island, and I was really impressed. It's like watching something of Bergman or any other black & white classics. When the camera focuses on Aunor's face - her eyes eternally glimmering, her expression reflecting a thousand emotions, I was like "Yeah. Money well-spent!" That's like 3-5 minutes into the movie. I was already content.

The plot itself is nothing new. It's been told before, maybe more intricate, maybe even better. A family caring for a relative with dementia, thrown together by circumstances finding themselves in a remote island, in a gloomy-looking ancestral home. Ghostly apparitions. Musical score perfectly-timed with the building suspense & a couple of scare shots. A malevolent ghost, that despite its resemblance of a Jabbawockeez dancer, I couldn't laugh even if I had a momentary urge to giggle, because its first appearance was so creepy I forgot about my sense of humor.

But what truly makes this film stand out is Nora Aunor. It's so rare nowadays for a horror film to rely on the actual emotions or mood because we all have gotten used to being served blood & guts, lots of screaming & hysteria that I get surprised if I see a really well-made horror movie (Roden's Kasambahay is also a good example). That's the beauty of Dementia. Intalan maximizes his lead's greatest strength - that is her ability to relay a story without opening her mouth. The most memorable scene for me involves Nora Aunor staring at the camera, so many emotions in a span of seconds or minutes, and hitting me like a laser gun straight to the heart. I shed tears.
I also commend the rest of the cast. But Jasmine Curtis-Smith surprised me the most. For a newbie, surrounded by Nora Aunor, Bing Loyzaga, Yul Servo, Chynna Ortaleza, and even Lou Veloso, she was a natural. Not teeny-bopper, not camera-conscious, no affected projections nor stilted dialogues - she was actually good. I will be watching out for her. Ortaleza, who in my opinion is such an underrated actress (and one of my favorites, since her Click days), also delivers a chilling performance as Olivia. As always, she makes the most of every character she portrays, and she always delivers. A huge part of me wishes to see her in more challenging & bigger roles.

How scary is Dementia?

If you have read my previous horror film reviews you would know that I'm a huge wimp. I cover my eyes half the time while watching ghost movies. So my gauge of how scary this film is might be vastly different than you guys. The movie doesn't bombard you with cheap scare tactics. All throughout, it winds you up into a big ball of tension, stretches you like an elastic band, ready to snap at the slightest hint of shadow/sound. There were only several really scary scenes - but they were very effective. The appeal of this as a horror film, like I've said, relies on the cast's acting, the score, the mood, and the superb photography. It's really great to see something with a hint of Korean/Japanese/Hollywood horror being applied in this film, but also retaining its native flavor - what I mean is, there were horror formulas (cliches, whatever) used, but unlike other mainstream flicks, this one felt real. It was masterfully handled by everyone, not just the director or the lead. It's like watching a world-class movie that's distinctly Filipino - it makes me proud. Dementia is not just paranormal-scary, though. It's also a psychological horror - making me realize the sad face of getting older; being a burden to relatives, losing yourself, forgetting your past. It put me in a cold, cold place.



My Rating: 4/5 - this is something worth watching. (5/5 for Aunor's subtle performance)

Percival Intalan's "Dementia"

Film Review:  DEMENTIA

By Rob San Miguel

“Intalan was smart enough to focus the camera on Aunor near the climax of the film.”

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“Dementia” has the key ingredients of a compelling psychological horror film. It is set in picturesque Batanes, which can look eerie if rendered into film properly. The film also boosts an ensemble cast consisting of new and veteran actors, and majority of the supporting actors gave good performances, notably Bing Loyzaga and Jasmine Curtis. Most importantly, for its lead, the film has Nora Aunor, who unquestionably can register complex emotions on film with minimal dialogues.

Director Percival Intalan used the turbulent waves and odd rock formations of Batanes to create a ghostly atmosphere. Mountains that are shaped like a silhouette of a supine woman were present and these natural shapes add to the overall effect of the movie .

Unfortunately, the film faltered at some scenes and Intalan lazily resorted to formulaic horror devices to illicit screams. 

Aunor gave a deft performance playing Mara, a woman suffering from dementia, but her character is not completely fleshed out. Similar to Joel Lamangan's "Hustisya," Aunor is burdened by a thin script so she has to make do with trite lines spoken in between her quite moments. Fortunately, Intalan was smart enough to focus the camera on Aunor near the climax of the film. The long close-up of Aunor's heartrending recollection was indeed necessary, and perhaps the redeeming feature of the film.Most of what we should know about Mara is revealed in the epilogue. Her brief scene in the hospital when her illness has not completely taken over provided a glimpse of Mara's real character. With just one line, we discover her regard towards her relatives, specifically her cousin. Her silent response coupled with a stern stare at her doctor also sums up Mara’s true nature. Perhaps Mara is not completely innocent.


In the beginning of the film, two questions stayed in my mind. “Was the film about dementia or a ghost? On the other hand, was the ghost a sign of her worsening dementia? The answer is irrelevant because the film chose to stick to a simple haunting ghost story. “Dementia” could have been like Alejandro Amenábar’s “The Others,” but it ended up like a Japanese or Thai horror film.

Still, “Dementia” is worth watching because it is interesting, specifically its ambivalent ending. In addition, we need to encourage new breed of directors. The film has the same flaws as any film by a first-time director but it has enough merits for horror fans to see.

Finally, the big question: “Did Mara do it, or not?” You have to watch to find out.

RATING: 3.5/5


DEMENTIA

Film Review:  DEMENTIA

BY ARMANDO DELA CRUZ

“Nora Aunor turns films into events; characters into magnified views of those characters. Here her celebrated eye-acting, endless and translucent, is a sight breath-taking on its own; it converges with the northern chill imbued within the film’s eerie misty seascapes that signal dread always within breathable proximity.”

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 Dementia is a thing of curious alchemy.

There is a scene nearing its end that simultaneously affirms and overturns its ideological confusions: Heavily influenced by New Asian horror, Percival M. Intalan’s debut feature as director is not a story strictly about hateful ghouls, but it is about hurt and betrayal and destruction. It is not a story strictly about the haunted, either, but of fractured psyches and corrupted moralities. There is no way to tell which exactly of the two (though I am inclined to champion the latter, which is more primal) with an end of such an ambiguous note it poses questions including one about the film’s own vision.

Numerous promotions may have posited audience to expect a close exposition on the cognitive dysfunction, but know that Dementia has not much interest on a split-screen of the mundane with the supernatural, much less an exhaustive discussion on the said disorder. It is no The Exorcism of Emily Rose and it consciously means not to, although perhaps it strikes terrible resemblance to the Scott Derrickson picture with how sparse is actually collectively known, in truth, of both the films’ principal characters.
Telling a story written by Intalan’s husband Jun Lana, known a filmic craftsman (see: Bwakaw) and able storyteller (see: Muro-ami), Dementia surrounds on Mara Fabre (Nora Aunor), whose early-stage dementia impels her cousin (Bing Loyzaga) to take her back home to Batanes — the northernmost Philippine island — to hopefully help with her mental affliction. The story is nothing unprecedented; how many times in a lifetime have we heard supernatural revenge plots unfold? The pieces are in place: gusts that kill candle fire, ghastly apparitions and supernatural encounters Mara soon will share with her niece Rachel, played by Jasmine Curtis-Smith. Yet, as ever, Lana elevates the film with a narrative strongly focused on Mara’s escalating distress, never mind if comprised of support characters who serve more as plot devices to tread back to Mara’s clouded and tragic past.

Nora Aunor turns films into events; characters into magnified views of those characters. Here her celebrated eye-acting, endless and translucent, is a sight breath-taking on its own; it converges with the northern chill imbued within the film’s eerie misty seascapes that signal dread always within breathable proximity. In this respect, it make sense for Intalan to employ great talents: whether it is Mackie Galvez (Mangatyanan) on image; and Von de Guzman (Yanggaw) on sound. The landscape shots are impressionistic views at Mara’s troubled state. The cliff, for instance, is a perfect venue for the film’s conclude. The scene is an entire encapsulation of Dementia, the scene that nears the end with Mara smiling at the wind finally, the scene that is essential to an impending twist (both a narrative revelation and a final wink before curtain-fall).

For both the film and Mara it might have been a Pyrrhic victory, but a victory just the same.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

For the LOVE OF DEMENTIA


Film Review: DEMENTIA

By STEWIE GRIBBIN

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A rarity in  horror genre, ‘Dementia’ stays away from blood and hysterics, instead, it capitalizes on the gothic setting and tension. Nora Aunor blows us away with her mesmerizing non-verbal performances, that we pardon the average plot—something that the usual nitpicking critic will tear apart if it wasn't for Aunor's superb acting and Perci Intalan's impressive direction.

Its subtlety and calmness create the eerie mood, and the contrasts of the setting -- a paradise with its own dark secrets. As the imagery and score wed with the powerful performances of Nora Aunor and the cast ensemble, DEMENTIA brings you to the world of isolation, mystery, and forgotten memories that (will) haunt you.

As for Nora Aunor, there is no question about her Mara Fabre. Given the small space to prove her case, Nora Aunor reminds everyone that when it comes to delivering intensity of character, she remains without peer. On the way up the hill that ends in a cliff, Nora Aunor as Mara falls on her knees as the past unfolds before her. You could count up to 20 shades of lucidity, realization, and sorrow on that wondrous face and be shaken by an actor that, despite the refinement of her craft through the decades, can still go back to rawness and wound all with her gift. That scene must be one difficult scene for future impersonators. The words are gone; only that face and the world that went away. At the cliff, Nora Aunor embodies the liberation that the mind offers in madness or in rationality. The calmness that overcomes Mara’s many years of forgetting and the smile that rekindles resignation to memory is once more proof that Nora is still the greatest film actor this small republic of ours has ever produced.   In fact, it is this greatness that is the problem of any young filmmaker who considers working with Nora Aunor at this stage of her career. Perci Intalan need not grieve. The director will be blamed; the scriptwriter will be blamed; the cinematographer will be vilified; and the soundman will be accused of dementia. But no one can blame this great actress  Nora Aunor.   -  TITO GENOVA VALIENTE  Urian Film Critic reviews.

But what truly makes this film stand out is Nora Aunor. It's so rare nowadays for a horror film to rely on the actual emotions or mood because we all have gotten used to being served blood & guts, lots of screaming & hysteria that I get surprised if I see a really well-made horror movie (Roden's Kasambahay is also a good example). That's the beauty of Dementia.  Director Perci Intalan maximizes his lead's greatest strength - that is her ability to relay a story without opening her mouth. The most memorable scene for me involves Nora Aunor's staring at the camera, so many emotions in a span of seconds or minutes, and hitting me like a laser gun straight to the heart. I shed tears.

Truth be told, I am so picky when it comes to books and movies, but this Nora Aunor  ‘Dementia’ blew me away to regions I have yet to discover. While commonplace actors speak to tell a story to be understood, Aunor simply tells the story by looking at us from the depths of her heart… Those eyes could bring you to a roller coaster ride of emotions… I spent the whole time not breathing so as not to miss a scene…What a treasure!

 “Dementia” is that rare Filipino horror drama that packs a solid emotional wallop. You won’t forget it soon after leaving the theater.

 Nora Aunor totally matches the swirling forces of nature on display throughout the movie with a dervish of a performance that involves very little spoken dialogue.

 It’s mostly ferociously internal until the devastating climax where, still wordless, her face erupts into a panorama of heartbreak, anguish, sorrow, guilt, regret, terror, and, finally, resignation and surrender. It’s unforgettable.  Congratulations for the Box-office success of Dementia. 


Dementia is Graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board!

NORA'S EYES: THE WINDOW TO ONE'S SOUL


Film Review: DEMENTIA

"The window to one's soul: Nora's eyes say it all in one sweep"

TEXT by SUSAN CLAIRE AGBAYANI

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You would think that in this day and age, Vilmanians and Noranians would have buried the hatchet and become more civil to each other. But there they were—allegedly Vilmanians—who had "infiltrated" the fan page of Dementia, rabidly attacking the latest acting vehicle of Superstar Nora Aunor.

While Batangas Governor (and Star for All Seasons) Vilma Santos made a meaningful, eventful, memorable, and award-winning comeback via Cinemalaya film Ekstra last year; since her return from the U.S., Vilma's arch-rival Nora has acquitted herself with nothing but fine performances one after the other via Brillante Mendoza's Thy Womb, Mes de Guzman's Ang Kwento ni Mabuti, Joel Lamangan's Hustisya and now Dementia Perci Intalan's first foray into directing.

Some experiences are far too painful and violent to remember, they are better forgotten. And the body has its own way of shutting out those violent and painful episodes in some corner of the brain. Hopefully, these memories will never be disturbed nor retrieved ever again.

In Dementia, former teacher Mara Fabre goes back to her hometown in Batanes accompanied by her cousin Elaine (depicted by Bing Loyzaga), her cousin's husband Rommel (Yul Servo) and niece Rachel (Jasmine Curtis-Smith).

Slowly, the life of Mara in the island as an adopted child of a well-off couple, and as a young adult (Althea Vega) unfold through a series of flashbacks. And as though a maze, we go through the deep recesses of her mind where she has kept all those memories hidden for years and decades.

And just like the puzzle she's been wanting to complete but is unable to, we try to piece all those bits and pieces of memories together to investigate what painful episode/s happened in her life in the past. dementia2

We get introduced to a character: Olivia (Chynna Ortaleza)—apparently—the rightful heir of her adoptive parents that hardly anyone in the island remembers because in all those years that she and Mara played together as children, and became teenagers, she remained hidden from sight. And hidden she must now remain, for reasons which we are about to find out.

If you watched the film, did it scare you enough? Kept you at the edge of your seat? What with doors closing, things falling from nowhere, images of ghosts—one of them wearing a bloody wedding gown—accompanied by music that's sure to jolt you (more than scare you, actually).

Every story must reach a high point somewhere sometime. Mara's scene at the edge of the cliff—overlooking the sea—is the perfect climax.

Perhaps, the most powerful point in the movie is when the camera focuses on Mara's face, and her soulful eyes mirror a myriad of emotions: love, pain, hurt, disappointment, anger, resignation.

Young people who had never seen any film of Nora Aunor (as she has not done films in as commercial a scale as she had in the past) have nothing but admiration for the Superstar and what her fans call as their "National Artist."

One of Nora's indefatigable fans though, Marie Cusi hastens to add: "It's not only us her fans who support her as the true national artist. Many groups are helping in this advocacy for Ms. Nora. She is well supported for the Nora Aunor for National Artist by the academe (Ateneo, UP, FEU, UST, PUP) and many advocate groups like CAP (artists), ACT (teachers), Ako Bicol party, students, top celebrities, politicians and national artists consider her as the true National Artist."

Literary writers say that sometimes, a place could actually be a "character." And  picturesque Batanes as the setting really sets the tone from scene 1 way into the movie's climax.  The film's director Perci Intalan wouldn't have achieved the effect he wanted had the film not been shot in windswept and melancholic Batanes. dementia3

The director also had a good cast of actors who supported the film's main actor: Bing Loyzaga, Yul Servo, Althea Vega, Chynna Ortaleza, and even Lou Veloso, Lui Manansala, and Jeric Gonzales.

But the person who acquits herself and will slowly but surely be treading the path to a higher plane in show business is Jasmine Curtis-Smith (who has been said to be a "better actress" than her ate Anne).

Has THE Nora Aunor ever done a horror film? The producers (among others, Jun Luna) behind the film were wise in creating and crafting a horror film for Nora who'd been typecast as an underdog and an oppressed woman in her previous films, which were mostly drama.

How we wish we learned more about dementia—but then—the film is not a documentary about dementia; it merely depicts the life of a demented person, written well by screenwriter Renei Dimla from the story of Jun Lana.

Psychologist and Ateneo medical school professor Marissa Adviento though swears by the authentic portrayal of dementia by/ in the film. Perhaps it would be a good film for the Dementia Society to feature and make people understand Alzheimer's and this condition better.


Now on its second week of screening, Dementia goes on an extended run in SM Fairview, SM North, and SM Southmall—the opening of new movies last Wednesday notwithstanding.  

SILENT BUT RUNS DEEP


Film Review: Dementia


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If you think Philippine movie industry is dead, think again, the industry comes alive again, thanks to Ms. Nora Aunor, for being active anew, making  and giving us  quality and relevant films. With the series of movies like "Thy Womb",  "Hustisya" and now "Dementia", Pinoy movies are something to watch again, I have seen  all the movies mentioned and no doubt La Aunor is one of the greatest actress of all time in our Philippine movie  history, a legend. By the way I want to categorize Dementia as both as a Film and a Movie at the same time, for the artistic and commercial value. 

Mara Fabre (Nora Aunor) was diagnosed with Dementia (memory degeneration), her niece (Bing Loyzaga) decided to come home and bring her back in her hometown of Batanes, a beautiful island up north, hoping to bring back some of her memories.  There the story revolves in  reminiscing her dark secrets, trying to settle and reconcile with her pasts. I won't tell you more about the story as much as I want to share it, to leave something for your imagination.

I don't want to be biased as well, but since we all grew up with La Aunor and we know her caliber, seen her movies, she literally a part of our culture and life, when it comes to acting, I'm all praises for her. Moving on and going back to Dementia, I really wanted to see this film on its first week run, good thing I was invited by my friends in the Nora Aunor Core Group: Dr. Danilo Delfin, Dr. Vener Mejia and Mr. Nestor De Guzman and informed that it was still showing on its second week! Lucky me!

This is another masterpiece and well-crafted film that will reap acting awards and honors here and abroad. The movie is  a box office hit even on the second week! The movie had both commercial and artistic value, that raise the consciousness of moviegoers both in the arts and entertainment department.

The movie is silent but runs deep, La Aunor's signature facial expressions is an acting in itself, she doesn't even have to say a dialogue, and only her can do just that. Her effortless and unpredictable acting give a lot of curiosity in my imagination that makes me  more suspense and thrilled!  The easy way to judge a good and working  movie is by the audience impact, if it's something that moves everyone, I can see the movie is a winner in this department, you'll hear screaming audiences,  engaged all throughout and got carried away.  

The beautiful and picturesque Batanes was the location of the story, it was a visual treat to all.  The script is well-written, and every details of the story has its own story to tell, kudos to  Mr. Jun Lana.

The Director Perci Intalan, was amazing for a first timer, he was able to extract the acting skills of all the cast. Bing Loyzaga is great, Jasmine Smith (as Rachel) is also a revelation, Yul Servo (husband of Bing) was very convincing, Chynna Ortaleza (as Olivia) is one actress to watch.

The Ateneo De Manila University Choral gave the movie a unique and original musical scores, they gave the film a lot of emotions, suspense and a high impact in every scene.

Coming from our friend, who don't watch Filipino movies and who's not a Noranian but became instant Noranian after watching Dementia:

"DEMENTIA is a world-class movie, with excellent cinematography, screenplay, musical scoring and superb performances of Nora Aunor and the whole cast." - MARK ANTHONY A. ROZEINIO

Do I need to say more? Every Filipino should watch this film, highly recommended.


Thank you Ms. Nora Aunor,  binuhay mo ang industriya ng  pelikulang Pilipino!