(Movie Review: Taklub/Trap)
by Jonathan Catunao
“If the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” – Charles Darwin.
When informed that famine is breaking out and the peasants have no bread to eat, legend has it that the much-reviled Queen Mary Antoinette of England responded by saying, “Let them eat cake.”
National issues brag-time in a middle-class tennis club in Alabang. A tennis pal declared, “Kapag pinanganak kang mahirap at namatay kang mahirap, ikaw na ang may kasalanan.”
Apparently, when the elite is not mocking the poor, the middle class is giving them a simple way out: “Work Hard”.
The way our society treats those who have absolutely nothing is the theme of Brillante Mendoza’s ‘Taklub’, where he takes as a year after the deluge in a tent community housing survivors from poor families.
The NBI is offering free DNA testing to identify missing loved ones among mass graves. After blood samples were taken from her, Bebeth (Nora Aunor) asks, “Kailan ko po malalaman ang resulta?” The lab technician replied, “Mga after one year po, more or less.”
Erwin (Aaron Rivera) complains to the city hall processor because his financial assistance documents are being tossed around. The officer shrugs, “Kasi naman ang tagal mo bumalik”. He explains, “Naghahanap pa po ako ng pamasahe.”
Gas lamps are used for lighting due to absence of electricity. A fire broke out in a tent causing an entire family to perish. A local woman being interviewed by a journalist lamented , “Sana kahit Coleman mabigyan kami.”
Movies about disasters and tragedies often end with a tribute to the human spirit. ‘Schindler’s List’ is about a German who saved Jews from Holocaust. In the movie ‘Twister’, Helen Hunt and team risked their lives to get as close as possible near the eye of a tornado to help save lives. And how many times have Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Ben Affleck saved the planet with their bravery? Tragedy + Heroism = Great Disaster Movie.
That’s mainstream. Brillante Mendoza is not. And in true independent fashion, his rendition of the strongest typhoon to ever visit planet Earth is not a CGI showcase of cities vanishing under water, humanity scampering to the highest ground and a handsome hero leading them to a new world as the sun rises behind the mountain clouds. From the gripping opening scene of an entire family burning to a woman lighting candles at the wrong graves, Taklub doesn’t shed light. Taklub doesn’t give hope. Taklub, instead, shatters all pretentions and brings us to the ugly truth.
Bebeth, Erwin and Larry are Yolanda survivors. Throughout the film their individual sufferings are revealed in intertwining gaps.
Larry, in a virtuoso performance by Julio Diaz, is a tricycle driver whose deep religious beliefs will be toyed many times throughout his cross-carrying ordeal. In another fatal blow after another typhoon hit their already ravaged town, will his faith still see him through?
Newcomer Aaron Rivera plays Erwin, a fisherman who must keep his siblings intact amidst the deaths of their parents. He is defying orders to leave the shoreline and insists on rebuilding their homes in no-build zones. Can he hold fast?
When other cast members like Rivera, Diaz and the magnificent Lou Veloso are delivering probably the performances of their lives in the roles of their careers, it will take a Nora Aunor to play a passive lead character and still outshine them all. As Bebeth, Nora Aunor plays a witness to the struggles of her fellow survivors. She passes around collection bottle for Renato. She shelters Larry and family during a storm panic. She checks if Erwin’s wounds are healing. She even adopts a dog. Bebeth, like many survivors, have lost loved ones. A testament to why she is one of the world’s greatest actresses, Nora Aunor portrays Bebeth subdued in emotions yet entrenched in torment. With her walls collapsing, will a wail of agony finally break the silence of the stormy night?
As the credits roll, a friend beside me was astonished, “Kuya Athan, umiiyak ka?”. Later at the theater exit, another friend recounted, “Umiyak ako sa tatlong eksena”. For a film that was originally commissioned as a small environmental campaign, ‘Taklub’ is now an epic account of devastation that has left a sea of humanity weeping.
For Larry. For Erwin. For Bebeth. For every Yolanda survivor that has lost so much and will never find hope.
For every Filipino living in the direst conditions that will never have a chance to get out, doomed to perdition, to their fatal end trapped.