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.”
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.