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15 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

This film has power

Author: Furuya Shiro from Yokohama, Japan
5 January 2002

This film has power. I did not feel this 3-hours-movie long. Director Diaz-Abaya described Rizal not only from outside but from his inner side. The plot was very complicated, but still not difficult to follow.

Since I first knew of Rizal in a book of Asian history, I have had a question. Why is Rizal the National Hero, not Aginard, nor Bonifacio? Rizal did little except writing two novels. Why? Watching the movie, I thought I had an answer. Historically, his books and his death triggered the revolution activities. But true reason is, I suppose, that Rizal had a universal view on humanity and freedom. I was impressed by the following two lines: 1) In a Madrid pub, he says "Unless we first learn self-respect, we will not be respected by any other peoples." 2) After having death sentence, his barrister says he is ashamed as a Spanish. Rizal says, "No, we are the same human beings." He was not a perfect man, nor his ideas. But he left something everlasting, that Filipinos can be proud of.

The next question I had was: His death triggered the revolution activities. Was it beyond his will, or did he want it to happen? The night before execution, the ghost of Simoun came out in his room, and urged him to rewrite the story. At last Rizal says "Let me have a rest. To know who I am." Then he rewrites the story so that the lamp explodes to kill many suppressors. So, what Abaya wants to say?

Anyway, it is a very good film. It is the first Philippine film put on a Japanese screen except kinds of film festivals. I hope more Philippine films are shown in Japan, especially Abaya's.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:


Author: JohnB-12 from California
16 August 1999

wow...this is the reaction I felt after watching this movie documenting the life of Jose Rizal. I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride when watching certain parts. I'd recommend anybody to see this movie, but I think filipinos should see it too, as the movie is a perfect blend of the Philippine national hero's life and his two books, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibustrismo, and will leave you feeling this sense of pride in your country.

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10 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Dissenting Voice

Author: teacher_tom516 from Philippines
19 June 2006

When I came back from America in 1998 the first thing I did was run to the video store and see if they came out with Abaya's 'Jose Rizal'. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that it hadn't been released yet. I was anxiously looking forward to seeing this picture.

This was a showpiece production from the beginning and I was looking forward to what Marilou Diaz-Abaya would do with it. Her trilogy from the 70's "Moral", "Karnal" and "Brutal" are still hallmarks of the Golden Age of Philippine cinema. I had been rather disappointed when I heard that Mike De Leon, one of the great visionary directors of the country was replaced by Abaya - his vision seemed pretty daring as well and he cast one of the luminaries of Philippine cinema - Aga Mulach - as his Rizal. While I positively loath Aga for being for the most part a pretty face who can barely act I felt that with de Leon he might actually come up with something real for a change. The casting of Cesar Montano at the time seemed like casting Steven Segal as George Washington.

Well it finally came out that year - and I was pleasantly surprised yet at the same time incredibly disappointed.

The pleasant surprise was from Cesar Montano. His utter dedication to the role, his sheer screen presence brought the character we only read about in history books to vivid life. Paired with an incredible Jaime Fabregas as Rizal's defense attorney, Lt.Taviel de Andrade, they made the story of Rizal's life easily understandable and entertaining. The chemistry was incredible and utterly believable.

Not so with many of the other characters who seemed to be playing well worn stereotypes of characters they played a thousand times before on stage and screen. Apparently, having played these characters or so many times before, they just automatically started playing the character rather than being the character. I mean how many times can Tony Mabesa and Subas Herrero be the arrogant Spaniard or Gloria Diaz be the long-suffering bespectacled mother? The script was a singularly uninspired rip off of other hero biopics particularly toward the end which is clearly stolen from Braveheart and consistently sounds like a grade school textbook. They took the usual Rizal legends and stories yet did not really offer much context for what was happening - the conflict between Liberals and Conservatives in Spain that was spilling over into the colonies, the growing resentment and nationalism of the natives of Cuba and the Philippines, the Bohemian revolution in art and culture, Victorian morality. It amazed me how DEAD the history was, particularly when you have the noted historian Fr. Ambeth Ocampo writing choice bits of his (and other heroes) personal history that could have added more humanity to the story.

The script, partially in Spanish, partially in Filipino, was long, long, long and, particularly when Rizal delivers the honorary speech to the expatriate Filipinos in Madrid, LOOOOONGGG!! My goodness did we really have to hear that long speech? Haven't these people heard of editing? The producers and artists who worked on this absolutely justify the other Rizal pic that Mike De Leon (forced out because of creative differences) did. We create historical characters in our own image. These people were so desperate to have a heroic, non-controversial Rizal that they took the 'party line history' and little else. The result was bland, bland, bland.

Take note that I am writing this from the point of view of someone who's studied Rizal since youth and who's tried to actually understand him beyond what's written in classroom textbooks.

Another bone I have to pick is with Filipinos is they are so darn proud that they were using the CGI effects that brought Titanic to stunning life - WHO CARES! You have enough money you can blow up the world. Visuals are important but they have to be complimented by a story that does justice to the subject matter.

The fight scenes are not just unhistorical but they are STUPID. Any idiot reading Philippine history will know that the Manila uprising of Andres Bonifacio (Versosa) was roundly defeated after the debacle of Pinaglabanan. The retreating Katipunero rebels were shot down by Spanish snipers as they fled. Some of Bonifacio's lieutenants were captured and put in front of the firing squad. Instead we are shown this hokey scene of a bumbling Spanish column being ambushed by Filipinos, men and women who leap on to their foes and beat them with their fists. The scene would have looked like some degenerate S&M costumed foreplay if it wasn't so comical.

Ultimately the film tells you the bare bones story of Rizal - and a bit of Bonifacio - as the bland history text books tell it. They make no effort to go beyond their source material to discover the zeitgeist that animated this age and what they do is so hideously boring that it's only the brilliance of Montano and Fabregas' acting that saves it from becoming a hokey Filipino biopic in the grand tradition of other Filipino biopics - sensationalized and trivial without any real substance.


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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Marilou Diaz-Abaya proves women directors can come up with epic gems!

Author: Kennethmeanshandsome (
14 April 2001

Established Filipino director Marilou Diaz-Abaya apparently saw lots of promise in Cesar Montano and cast him as her José Rizal; I can think of better actors but otherwise her film is a visually dazzling, well-mounted biography of a Filipino hero. Cesar Montano enthusiastically bites into the quintessential role of José Rizal, with impressive Spanish lines and good affectations. He made Filipino viewers forget his beginnings as a vapid bold actor. 1969 Miss Universe Gloria Diaz is luminous as José Rizal's mom (winning a Best Supporting Actress MMFF award, her first in 29 years), yet her scenes are actually too brief to be considered memorable. Pen Medina, Subas Herrero, Ronnie Lazaro and (MMFF Supporting Actor winner) Jaime Fabregas lend okay support. Gardo Versoza, Tony Mabesa and Joel Torre (usually reliable thespians) are lacklustre here; Versoza's "Andres Bonifacio" is ludicrous. Chin Chin Gutierrez (as the complex character "Josephine Bracken"), acclaimed Broadway actress Monique Wilson (as fictional "Maria Clara") and starlet Mickey Ferriols are totally wasted here. We don't learn anything at all about Bracken, the love interest of Rizal. The effectively moody music of Nonong Buencamino won an award, and I also liked the lavish sets and costumes, starkly beautiful cinematography by Rody Lacap and the stunning visual effects by Mark Ambat. The Ricardo Lee-Jun Lana-Peter Ong Lim script is muddled and lacks a strong dramatic structure (conversations seeming to lead somewhere interesting are left suspended, and questions posed by the characters are never addressed at all) and the novelty of having the real-life José Rizal interact with the lead character of his novel is more confusing than engrossing. The script displays blatant biases, fallacies (a matter of opinion) and a ludicrous "deus ex machina;" it weighs down to actor Montano to carry the film with his insightful delineation of a favorite, if little-understood national hero. Marilou Diaz-Abaya has proven that women directors can come up with substantial gems in filmdom.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

A Powerful and Disturbing View of the Filipino Hero

Author: songfta from Middletown, CT
4 October 1999

Jose Rizal is a lush, vivid, graphic portrait of the achievements of the National Hero of the Philippines. The direction and cinematography are first-rate, as is the acting. The picture strays from many "Hollywood" constructs in laying out the final days of Rizal, although flashbacks play a major role in depicting the development of Rizal's revolutionary pro-independence philisophy. I recommend this film for anybody interested in world history and anybody who wants to see a top-notch non-Hollywood production. I would *not*, however, recommend this film for anybody under the age of 16, as the subject matter is very disturbing and can be confusing to those lacking the maturity to process intense psychological drama.

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

A movie worthy of being a masterpiece - in all aspects.

Author: oscar99 from Makati City, Philippines
13 September 1999

"Jose Rizal" has been touted as one of the masterpieces of Philippine cinema. For the first time in years, I enjoyed watching a historical film without getting bored, what with Cesar Montano's award-winning turn as the title role as well as the realistic period settings and well-written script. No wonder it became a critical and box-office success in our country for months. Audiences loved it, and so do I. But after having lost the local Oscars last May (after winning 3 Best Picture awards), I could only say that detractors can't still hold of this movie worthy of emulation. Come and watch it, and you'll surely enjoy!

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If not the best depiction of the famed hero, "Jose Rizal" is a great example of a grand Philippine epic.

Author: thependragonscribe from Sta. Rosa, Philippines
30 December 2015

Happy Rizal Day to everyone! And as a special tribute to the national hero of my home country and hometown, here is an updated overview of the 1998 epic biopic, which I once considered the "best film of Philippine cinema".

It is overwhelming to realize the influence that this film brought to the country. In obvious reasons, it comes from the understanding of the famed hero and his exploits. "Jose Rizal" then succeeded on interpreting Rizal's life story. As it should be, this film is a helpful module for students and others who have yet to know about Rizal.

But glancing over that, others may seem to overshadow its slight faults. Though technically, "Jose Rizal" did excellently in its attempts to depict a Spanish-occupied Philippines, with its authentic sets, still cinematography, blend of sounds and images, and Marilou Diaz-Abaya's excellent direction. Its execution is nearly pitch perfect. Though it has to be set back by the story.

Nothing offensive to the story. In fact, in a roaring 178 minutes, you feel the Rizal's story coming to life. The backdrop is Rizal's imprisonment in Fort Santiago, and the rest of his story was shown in flashback. Best parts were definitely intertwining Rizal's monologues with excerpts from his novels "Noli Me Tangere" and "El Filibusterismo". Though the effort was excellent, the attempt was too tight to depict Rizal as a "chosen one" on a hero's journey. And the end result is the movie going by the numbers to properly tell Rizal's story and the rising of the Philippine revolution. At the end, screenwriters Ricky Lee, Jun Lana and Peter Ong Lim had done a fine job, bringing Rizal's life, piece by piece. A minor complaint, I could have expect more grand from Rizal and more emphasis on its surrounding crucial history. There was indeed more material than what was depicted. But helpfully, the film respects its audience's receiving thoughts. The saving grace, thankfully, is Cesar Montano, who had done a magnificent work portraying the titular hero in a stilted yet affectionate manner. He really deserves honor in what I can call his signature movie role. The cast ensemble of familiar faces of local showbiz provide gravitas needed for every sequence. But the standout is definitely Jaime Fabregas as Rizal's defendant, Luis Taviel de Andrade. The ensemble acts this out like a three-act play but it was worth sitting through.

Just applauding the excellence that "Jose Rizal" achieved makes it reasonable that other Philippine biopics used its templates for theirs. (See "Baler" and "El Presidente".) Beneath all that, I am going to claim that "Jose Rizal" may not be the best film that the Philippines has to offer. But it was a stepping stone in excellence for the local film industry. Thanks Ms. Diaz-Abaya.

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Jose Rizal: The Greatest Filipino Film Ever

Author: Desertman84 from United States
13 February 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

José Rizal is a Filipino film biopic that depicts the life of the José Rizal,the national hero of the Philippines.It is touted as one of the biggest films ever made in the history of Philippine cinema with a record-breaking P80-million budget(close to $1.7 million) despite the fact that historical films in the Philippines are often notorious flops during that time. The movie features Cesar Montano on the title role as Jose Rizal,together with Joel Torre,Jaime Fabregas,Gloria Diaz,Gardo Versoza,Pen Medina and Mickey Ferriols.The movie was directed by Marilou Diaz-Abaya.

The film was told in flashbacks of Jose Rizal's life as he awaits execution in a Manila prison.Accused of treason,Rizal meets with his government-appointed counsel, Luis Taviel de Andrade.The two build the case and arguments for the defense as significant events in the central figure's life prior to his incarceration unfold. Upon hearing his life story, Taviel begins to realize that the accused is not only innocent but exhibits in fact all the qualities of an ordinary man. When the mock trial unreels, Taviel is all set to act as the prime advocate for his client as Rizal himself is about to give an earth-moving speech to defend his honor and address his countrymen.Meanwhile, the Spanish authorities have worked out the vast political machinery to ensure a guilty verdict. A revolution awaits in the wings. Blood is shed when the Katipunan, founded by Andres Bonifacio, attacks the Spaniards and Father Rodriguez who order the execution of Jose Rizal.Apart from that,parts of Rizal's novels,Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, were told in parallel with his life story.

Jose Rizal is definitely a landmark in Philippine cinema.The movie is great in visuals and production design.The cinematography was superb.The acting was brilliant especially from Cesar Montano,who captured the personality of not only Jose Rizal himself but a person who is totally dedicated to providing freedom and great things for his country.Aside from that,the movie also made it a point be historically accurate with the events surrounding that have both happened in Rizal's life and the history of the Philippines as well.It also made it a point to completely capture Rizal's execution taken on December 30,1896 with the presence of the dog based on the photograph taken that day.Aside from that,the direction of Diaz-Abaya was excellent as she made it an effort not only to tell the story of the most famous Filipino freedom fighter but also to make this movie the greatest Filipino film ever made.

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3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

NOT for school and reaction papers

Author: nbellechan from calgary, canada
12 October 2007

The movie Jose Rizal is a great interpretation of the Philippines's tragic history. I believe it got all it's facts right which would help a lot in studying this quarter's lesson. It also shows patriotism and heroism in a peaceful way. It also is an accurate and colourful biography of Jose Rizal's full life. However, there were a lot of points where it was very difficult to understand what Jose Rizal was saying because it was usually in Spanish, and although they were really speaking in Spanish, I could tell Cesar Montano was having difficulties in reciting his Spanish lines. It only shows how he lacked practice and coaching with these parts. It is also rather confusing to watch because there were too many flashbacks and you won't know if he was still in Spain or what. If you are a person who is easily confused, do not watch this movie because all you would do is gape at the screen and be befuddled by these flashbacks. Of course, if you can cope with the weird scene-cuttings, well, there isn't a problem with watching it at all. I would also encourage you to watch it again after the first time to understand it more clearly. I would not recommend this movie to students' grade 5 and below. Apparently, the movie has its own complexity and some scenes of violence. There are also some scenes wherein it's very inappropriate for young children such as the nude and bed scene in the first part. Although the scene shows how abusive the friars are with their power which would include raping Filipino women, the scenes are very disturbing, even for us. There is also some times wherein Jose Rizal has somewhat a mad glint in his eye as if he seemed frustrated which is quite disturbing to look at. It only shows the desperation of Jose Rizal through body language; however, this was excellently portrayed in some scenes. Although based on true fact, I believe that the fact that Jose Rizal did have a love affair with his cousin should not have been shown in the movie because it gives Jose Rizal a new and bad light after he kissed Leanor Rivera, his cousin. Maybe they could have showed that Jose Rizal did have a love affair with his cousin in a more custom way, but it should not have been portrayed in a sexual way. This would completely disgrace Filipino culture because our culture is very conservative, and kissing in a clinic is very far from what I would say conservativeness of the Filipinos. Other love affairs of Jose Rizal such as the one with Josephine Bracken publicly showed that they had a child together, but it died during birth. It was also mention several times that they had a child. This would not only disgrace the name of Jose Rizal but also the Filipino people. Although he wasn't exactly what you would call a teenager at that time, a pre-marital baby is not what you would be proud to this day, and I guess in those days, you would reach the point of being disowned by your own family. And even though we all know that Jose Rizal was really a womaniser, you wouldn't want to know that our national hero actually was a very kinky man after all. Overall, I half-enjoyed and was also half-disturbed by the movie. This would certainly help in understanding the life of Rizal, but I really don't think it's appropriate for small kids. I would recommend this movie to people who would like to know more about the history of the Philippines, but personally, if you are not interested and you are not required to watch this at school, do not watch it because as I have said, it's very disturbing.

This is a copy of my reaction paper for this movie in History class and i'm 13 years old and we're REQUIRED to submit one.

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