Film Review: DEMENTIA
"The window to one's soul: Nora's eyes say it all in one sweep"
TEXT by SUSAN CLAIRE AGBAYANI
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.