Set during the Philippine-American war, Heneral Luna follows the life of one of Philippine History's most brilliant soldier, General Antonio Luna, as he tries to lead his countrymen against colonial masters new and old, and to rise above their own raging disputes to fulfill the promise of the Philippine Revolution.
The Philippine flag, which appears at the background in the scenes with Luna at his office, becomes more and more stained as the movie progresses. At the end of the movie, the dirty flag, gets burned (through CGI effects) See more »
When General Luna and his men enter a church to pray briefly after hearing news of the American attack on Santa Mesa, several statues of the Virgin Mary can be seen near a window in the background. One of them is Our Lady of Fátima; the Fátima Apparitions occurred in 1917, almost two decades after the film's time period. See more »
In a post-credits sequence, General Gregorio del Pilar (Paulo Avelino) is told there are not enough men left. He tells his aide to choose 60--the number of men he had with him when he tried to defend Aguinaldo's retreat from American soldiers at the Battle of Tirad Pass. The scene hints that Del Pilar will be the focus of the next film in a rumoured historical film trilogy by director Jerrold Tarog. See more »
"Heneral Luna" sees through the humanity of a volcanic temper
While not entirely a groundbreaking film in the strict sense of the word, there's just a number of firsts in "Heneral Luna" (2015, Phil.), the latest work from the director of the excellent Camera trilogy ("Confessional", "Mangatyanan", "Sana Dati"), Jerrold Tarog. Chief among which, of course, is the subject-matter itself: Antonio Luna (played to perfection by John Arcilla), the valiant and volcanic Filipino general who was a major force in the Philippines' fight for freedom and independence from the American colonizers during the later part of the 19th century. Filipino historical films or biopics seem to be generally restricted to just two prominent figures: Andres Bonifacio and Jose Rizal. From the top of my mind, I can only recall a couple of films that featured heroes other than those two stalwarts: a Macario Sakay film by Raymond Red and one about Lapu-Lapu starring Lito Lapid. If there are other such works still, they may have already been drowned in obscurity.
Thus, a film that details the significant contribution of Gen. Antonio Luna to our history (or his life and death, if one may opt to say so) should be most welcome. After all, as our history is undeniably marked by numerous wars and battles, it would be just apt that we get to encounter as well those who helped maneuver our frontline fight against the foreign intruders and colonizers. And so, how does Tarog's "Heneral Luna" actually come about as a viewing fare?
To put it succinctly, the film is brimming with delight, irreverence, and fervent and genuine patriotism. And to top it all, the characters, most specially the key figures, are portrayed with a fresh breeze of humanism, rather than as cold textbook derivations. While watching the film, one really gets the feeling that all the proclamations of nationalism and duty to and love for country aren't merely hollow airings, but are genuinely impassioned without having to spell them out in big, bold letters. And while at it, "Heneral Luna" manages to be consistently entertaining as well, with its humor and some off-the-wall moments. Such is the accomplishment of the film.
At the film's prologue, it's pointed out that the filmmakers have taken the liberty of combining "fact" and "fiction" to be able to bring across bigger truths. Thus, the inspired artistic choices: the young journalist who "interviews" Gen. Luna;the general's clandestine love affair with a woman named Isabel;the "flashbacks" within a narrative that's already by nature a flashback by way of history;Luna's stirring guitar-tuned flamenco under the moonlight which, in effect, is also a swan-song;the poignant touch of magic realism towards the end, accompanied by Beethoven's plaintive piano sonata. The film, likewise, doesn't shy away from a brutal and graphic depiction of the battlefront and of the tragic fate of the general in the hands of his own men. This is all due to the brave and intelligent screenplay by Tarog, E.A. Rocha and Henry Hunt Francia, and the unflinching and imaginative direction by Tarog himself. (If one is keen enough to pick up the "signals", the historical saga will most definitely have a continuation with the stories of Gregorio del Pilar (to be portrayed most probably by Paolo Avelino) and Manuel Quezon (most likely to be interpreted by Benjamin Alves);Tarog is no stranger to making a trilogy.)
On point of performance, while everyone has put in invaluable work, the film is undoubtedly owned by Arcilla. As the title character, the actor is able to delineate on screen the general's reputed fierceness, hardheadedness, brashness and fearlessness with gusto and aplomb. One can really see that he relishes his character flesh and bone that the screen simply flares up every time he's in the frame. But beneath the volcanic personality, one can still sense a deeply-felt love for the country and an unassailable desire to fight for its freedom till the end being harbored by the general. It's an incomparable performance that sees through the humanity of a "monster".
While it has to be admitted that the film's irreverence, narrative- and character-wise, isn't unique to itself as one can in fact recall Robert Altman's "M*A*S*H*", Franklin J. Schaffner's "Patton", Mike Nichols' "Catch-22" and even our own Mike de Leon's "Bayaning Third World", nevertheless "Heneral Luna" is to be applauded for being able to infuse fresh vigor to the historical drama that's rarely seen nowadays. If it's to be of any note, the film starts and ends with the image of the Philippine flag - in the first, the national emblem is fresh and intact;while in the second, it's burning to ashes. It's sad to think what this coda really says to our journey as a nation so far.
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