Review: Anino Sa Likod ng Buwan

Jun Lana’s Anino Sa Likod ng Buwan will be commercially screened starting July 20 at Gateway Cinema in Cubao, Quezon City, Festival Mall – Alabang, Robinson’s Galleria-Ortigas, Robinson’s Metroeast-Pasig; and in Davao at Gaisano Davao and Gaisano Tagum. Graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board and Rated R-18 (approved without cuts), this chamber drama inhabited by deepest secrets and desires, won various awards at international film festivals (including Best Director and Best Actress). 

For the uninitiated, there’s initial ambivalence for at least about 30 minutes of watching Jun Lana’s Anino Sa Likod ng Buwan (Shadow Behind The Moon). For one, it is shot to look grainy and claustrophobic as if one is watching from a found footage miraculously unearthed from the remains of the ill-reputed Marag Valley, Apayao in the 1990s. A closer look provides nothing to make things pretty or pleasing to the eye. It is as if an unseen filmmaker is following every bit of action going on in a small hut where a couple intermingles with a regular visitor – a studly foot soldier. It is very engaging, and tension and intrigue are making a killing as the seemingly caustic banters escalate to something beyond what this microsocial gathering aspires for – all captured in one continuous take. For the earthly convulsive, the rigidity of sexual play is too outwardly gathered for a subtle charade. The dramatic pull places the entire force to carefully metered dialogues and evenly choreographed actions, albeit minimal and restrictive – all this effort seems contrived to create a chamber drama that speaks volumes about feminism against the backdrop of post-martial law years in the Philippines where life remains undervalued, and sporadic social unrest remains a threat. 

Perhaps the woman (played by LJ Reyes) is quite the liberated one given the emergence of female power a few years back in the political timeline. Or maybe her outward strength is only cobbled by a personal motive, that though it is apparent that she is not just a woman of ordinary means. Does her politics purely speak of the greater good? Is her mission completely selfless and patriotic, and beyond personal revenge? Is she still playing the revolutionary game? Reyes’ very challenging task of ingesting all these complexities of characterization and coming out nuanced and dynamic is admirable, although not without a few missteps and miscalculations. There is unquestionable sheer of brilliance coming out of her thespic arsenal, although she appears to be too devised to exemplify the edginess of precision – and by this cue perhaps stemmed the unavoidable nuisance of the melodramatic tone that pivots her performance and the film’s own merit to flicker beyond control. 

The man (played by Anthony Falcon) needs to play his cards right – one wrong glare, his elaborate micro-guerilla warfare may explode right before and into his eye. Falcon, a seasoned theater actor, knows he has the advantage – and he uses that knowledge to create a well-toned characterization that cannot be easily derailed by problematic directorial choices. He is fully aware that although they are mirroring a theatrical play, he is very up to his game – and what a resplendent character work he displayed! Alas, the script pulls the ubiquitous trigger and out jumps the twist that almost buries his entire effort to the ground. 

The soldier (played by Luis Alandy) evens out both his internalized struggle and external drives. He is a soldier, a friend, and a lover. To make his motivations more clearly defined, there is a crisp interplay of his emotional shifts, outward desires, and display of his towering presence. Of the three, his character is the most perfectly drawn. Alandy may not be the best performer, but he is most definitely not the weakest link. In fact, they all did well and complemented one another. Alandy’s rawness works well to his benefit because he exudes relatable charms and his unwieldy nature extracts the appeal required for the role. We have never seen a three-dimensional soldier traditionally downgraded as a villain since Christopher De Leon’s turn in Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos. 

Anino Sa Likod ng Buwan is not deficient of merits, and the accolades it received is well-meaning and deserved. Arguably, it is one of the best films made in the year where a distinctive cinematic piece is critically desired in a digital moviemaking community of which the independent spirit is ostensibly slipshodding and in dire want of more innovative waves. It is not traditionally an entire cinema experience, but its formidable effect resonates even at present – where declaration of Martial Law (or the creation of citizen army units) is not anymore necessary since one wrong turn may leave you bloodied in an alley.


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