By VIC SEVILLA
While it is true that Nora Aunor has mastered the art of suffering in films, her latest outing as Mercy de Dios in “Kabisera” adds a new dimension to her trademark evocation of misery. In a film about a widow’s fight to find justice for her slain husband and son, Aunor’s Mercy is not a hapless victim. Here, she fights back, not in blind anger, but in a way that’s righteous, persistent and quiet.
She abides by the law in seeking justice for her loved ones even if it’s law enforcers that brought about the tragedy in her family. She diligently follows the directions of grandstanding public officials to the letter in the hopes of somehow finding new leads into her husband’s death.
What makes the dramatic scenes in “Kabisera” effective is the director’s restrained manner in showing anger and grief. There are really no big scenes here – no sermon at the mount, no splashing of boiling water on the tormentor’s face, no lengthy dialogues that end in face slapping. Here, Aunor kept her emotions in check to portray grief.
Personally, her most outstanding moment in the film include the court scene where she narrates her husband’s gruesome murder and her telephone conversation with her fugitive son. Quietly, Aunor simply lets her emotions flow without turning the scene into a big and lavish display of emotional fireworks.
Equally touching was the scene where Mercy offers a bag of “puto” (rice cakes) to her attorney (Victor Neri) and to the head of the Human Rights Commission (played brilliantly by Ces Quesada). In this simple scene, Aunor shows her mastery of underacting. Her face shows the desperation of someone who seeks justice, but her actions show calmness. Here, Mercy shows how to plead with dignity and honor.
The effect is astounding – watching her in those scenes is like watching the news where victims narrate their tragedy: without fanfare, without drama but just telling their tales of horror and grief in a way that’s true and raw. Aunor’s scenes are painful to watch only because her portrayal of loss is simple and too real. Apparently, Aunor’s experiences in indie filmmaking has honed her into a finer artist – one who does not rely on big scenes and staged circumstances to create electricity.
What makes “Kabisera” timely and significant is that it never points an accusing finger at any entity. Unlike many of the politicians who love to grandstand and proclaim themselves as heroes and champions of human rights, “Kabisera” is quiet in its portrayal of loss, grief, and the arduous road to attain justice.