Film Review: Sa Gabing Nanahimik ang mga Kuliglig (2017)

Dolores (Mercedes Cabral) was killed on the night of the procession, and no crime in a small town goes unnoticed. The police, church, and townspeople are off to figure out who is involved and what really happened that night. Directed by Iar Lionel Arondaing, Sa Gabing Nanahimik ang mga Kuliglig deals with an unforgivable crime, and the an examination of forgiveness, faith, and repentance.

It felt like the Kuliglig is three different stories mashed into one because there is no character in focus. It jumps from one character to the next as the film goes on. The first act focused on Magda (Angel Aquino) and her journey to repentance, but they did not dive deeper into that, instead they shifted the focus to Father (Jake Macapagal), examining his guilt and responsibility as a person of the church. Again, they left it and went on to the next character which is Lester (Jess Mendoza). The themes of forgiveness and repentance stitch these characters and their conflicts together, but because of this structure, this leaves the film fragmented.

It is hard to care for characters and their journey if their stories are presented to you and just when the story starts to examine the character and their conflicts, everything changes and we suddenly see the story from another characters’ perspective. This breaks the connection and investment to the characters that we are starting to get to know. Even if you say that this is a plot-driven film, the characters should never compensate for that. It is a shame that Kuliglig has talented actors but they never really showcased them to their fullest.

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Angel Aquino carrying the wooden cross is pretty much how this film is — she carries the film on her back. Aquino plays Magda, the killer of Dolores, and we follow her journey from anger, guilt, and repentance. She is spectacular as expected, she does not overreact and her character’s vulnerability is visible all throughout the film. Same can be said about Jake Macapagal, who plays the Father. There was an emotional moment for the Father where the guilt of knowing the person behind the murder was eating him alive. It is easy to see the emotional turmoil he is going through even though Ricky’s acting was subtle and never over the top.

The aspect that really stands out in Kuliglig is its cinematography. The lighting and especially the composition are the most memorable thing about this film. Maevelyn Calapardo, the director of photography, used the rules of composition to the best of its capabilities. Most of the shots are breathtaking and well-composed. The use of wide angle, rule of thirds, and negative space really add to the effectiveness of its visual storytelling. There is almost always a lot of negative spaces surrounding characters and it feels like they are being watched by something they nor us can see.

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In relation to its amazing visuals, they also incorporated their setting as their character. Being a film that deals with themes like forgiveness, sin, and repentance, they used the church and several divine statues as characters. This was evident during Magda’s confession scene where the altar is used as the background and is somehow looming over her as if looking over her shoulders and listening to her confession and sin. The use of setting as character is fitting especially because the story deals with repentance.

Kuliglig truly is a feast for the eye and it has themes that are interesting and riveting, it just so happens that the storytelling is not as interesting compared to it. This shows that just because you have the technicals at the palm of your hand, the story is a different conversation. There is great potential here, but Kuliglig never really lived up to it.

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