Friday, July 24, 2009

Pinoy Film Focus: Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (1974)

(You Have Been Weighed and Found Wanting)

Director: Lino Brocka

Writers: Lino Brocka, Mario O'Hara

Cast: Lolita Rodriguez, Lilia Dizon, Eddie Garcia, Mario O'Hara, Hilda Koronel, Christopher de Leon

Runtime: 126 minutes

In Lino Brocka's distinguished oeuvre, Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang is one of the true gems. The title itself--in both Filipino and English--suggests a powerful morality piece, and the film is nothing short of that.

Junior (Christopher de Leon), born into a life of privilege, is contentedly living his life as a young man with everything laid out for him. He is educated, his family is affluent, and he is in a relationship with local beauty Evangeline (Hilda Koronel). But then his path crosses with those of social outcasts Kuala (Lolita Rodriguez), a woman driven to madness by the forced abortion of her child, and the leper Bertong (Mario O'Hara). As he spends more time with the unlikely--and scandalous, at least to the townsfolk--pair, his perspectives dramatically change. Not all is right with the world that he has become accustomed to, and Evangeline's ambivalence toward him does nothing to convince him otherwise. As Brocka films tend to, this ends on a tragic note, but there is something cathartic and hopeful in seeing Junior, the lone light, weave his way through the shadowed crowd with a newly born child cradled in his arms.

Brocka's Philippines was the harsh, suppresive Philippines of the Marcos era, and he never failed to indict the government or at the very least shed light on the country's social ills in his more prominent films. Here he showcases the marginalization that has had Philippine society in such a strong grip for much of its colonial history, and the hypocrisy born out of religion that has served to emphasize it. The title (perhaps one of the best in Philippine cinema) notwithstanding, the movie's emotional power comes from Brocka's sure-handed direction, his and O'Hara's strong screenplay, and the superb performances of de Leon, Rodriguez, O'Hara, and the supporting players.

Despite the obvious though still arguable differences between the Marcos era and the current one, Tinimbang remains as watchable and as truthful now as it did when it was first released. On top of being a piece on the social ills that still prevail in many parts of the country, it is, quite simply, a great film. That in itself ensures it a permanent lofty place in the history of Philippine cinema and social commentary.

Photo source: Philippine Cinema Vault

No comments: