‘Aparisyon,’ a movie in ‘slow mo’

The nuns of Adoration Convent.

The nuns of Adoration Convent.

By Cristina DC Pastor

I have to confess, this film made me sleepy. It is so slow to the point of being droll and tiresome. While the slow pace is necessary in the depiction of life in a secluded convent where the only excitement is feeding chickens or bottling herbs to sell in the market, I felt it was overdone. Variety magazine was right to call director Vincent Sandoval’s “Apparition” (Aparisyon) a “mood piece.”

The film begins to gather interest after tragedy strikes, revealing a most intriguing, although somewhat labyrinthine story line.

A young novice, Sister Lourdes (played by actress Jodi Sta. Maria), joins the cloister and becomes friends with Sister Remy (Mylene Dizon), an extern, or a nun who is allowed to go out of the convent on errands. When she learns her activist brother is missing, Sister Remy begins to question the relevance of her religious life. She wants to be with her family to help in the search for her brother, but when she asks to go on leave, the Mother Superior (Fides Cuyugan-Asensio) denies her request.

On their regular errands, Sister Remy brings Sister Lourdes along and together they attend anti-government meetings. Coming home one night, tragedy befalls the two nuns. A group of men hiding from the bushes violently attacks Sister Lourdes. Sister Remy escapes but bears the enormous guilt especially on finding out later that the young nun gets pregnant.

The story becomes one long narrative of eyes talking, voices in muted conversations, and excellent acting. The pace does not pick up but at least there is a plot to follow, revealing further what goes on inside the isolated Adoration Convent, headed by a Mother Superior who refuses to take decisive moves to protect her nuns. A clutch of characters adds to the plot, including the ailing Sister Marcia (Rustica Carpio) who screams at the Mother Superior calling her the scion of Satan. One wonders what brought on that outburst, until you reflect on the film’s message and come to your own conclusion.

What is the film about?

From my understanding, the movie describes a condition of tyranny within a religious convent, which is no different from the authoritarian rule in the outside world. The film in set in the 1970s leading to Ferdinand Marcos declaring the Philippines under a state of martial law.

Guilt is the pervading emotion among many of the main characters, not just Sister Remy, who blames herself for the violence committed against Sister Lourdes. The Mother Superior washing blood off her hands and Sister Vera flagellating, they bear the guilt of the elders who stand by as the convent is swept into the vortex of seeking a moral response to the political upheaval around them. The greater the burden of guilt, the more prayerful the nuns become.

The film mesmerizes for its brilliant cinematography and excellent acting, but one wonders why the storytelling needs to suffer in the hands of overwrought filmmaking.

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One Comment

  1. M. Matthews wrote:

    Ms. Pastor, I read your review and I did like it.
    This film is one of the best Filipino film I have seen in years.
    Indeed, it was slow from the start, but then it got quite intriguing
    and emotions runs high among the major players in this superb film full of
    drama and excellent acting.

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