Perhaps the bravest entry in this year’s Metro Manila Film Fest, Ang Panday 2 takes so many risks and pushes mainstream narrative conventions, it’s hard to find fault in a few flawed parts that make what is otherwise a satisfying whole. It may still not be for everybody though.
Hit the jump for the full review.
I approached Panday 2 with no small amount of trepidation, having not seen the first installment and wary of all the pre-conceived notions that go along with a big budget Ramon Revilla film. At the end of it all, I walked away not only with pleasant surprise but something a few movies leave me with: that strange mixture of dread and satisfaction.
The movie starts with a pedestrian exercise in world building as Flavio (Bong Revilla), the Panday, rebuilds his hometown in the wake of Lizardo’s (Philip Salvador) demise with expository dialougue revealing what happened, who people are and how much they love Flavio. Kids love him, Women love, Men love him and former minions of Lizardo want to be his friend.
Baruha, an unstable witch of distinctly western appearance, calls forth Lizardo from the depths of hell and unleashes him once more on the land. When he kidnaps Panday’s Love interest Maria (Iza Calzado), Panday is off on another grand adventure to save the girl and the world.
Or is he?
It is not until the introduction of Baruha (Lorna Tolentino) that the movie turns from bland movie-of-the week to dystopic Lynchian tour-de-force.The introduction of Baruha starts a split in the narrative, where we leave the happy, content villagers of the opening and explore the depths of Baruha’s fragile mind. For the rest of the movie, Baruha watches what she believes to be the actual events of the film in her small leaky cauldron. It’s a brave depature from the usual fantasy fare and embraces the nature of true dark fantasy; a dark reflection of the human psyche. She raises the cauldron at us (an admittedly heavy handed device, but a small nitpick) and asks us to stare at the reflection we cast. Guess what? It stares back.
Like a stream of conciousness, we are whisked from scene to scene, each more fantastical and psychologically charged than the last-assaulted on all fronts by a disparaging look at the human condition. Flavio’s fiancee is kidnapped, raped, de-aged and finally killed as Flavio completely forgets her by the film’s end. Characters long thought dead are brought back to life and turned into horrible nightmarish visions of themselves. Flavio himself is reduced to a souless hero, mugging and moping every chance he gets. His dragon is a beautiful girl, one he cannot have. Villagers turn their backs on their hero, and their champion does so in return.
The intensity of the scences have an actual physical effect on Baruha - she changes into a youner version of herself at the end and declares that Flavio hasn’t seen anything yet. And we all know he hasn’t, as he goes for a walk oblivious to the psychological tand physical transformation of his new nemesis as the credits begin to roll. Imagine if the The Dark Knight was proceeded by a movie just about how the Joker was driven insane. That’s the stage it sets for Panday 3.
This of course, would not be possible by the performances of the cast, who capture the helplessness and existential nuance needed for such a yarn. In perhaps the best performance of the film, Marian Rivera plays Flavio’s Dragon cum new love interest, a plot element that would have been ridiculous if Baruha’s questionable sanity had not been established. In one of the film’s best scenes, Bugoy, Flavio’s child companion tells the dragon she is beautiful. Marian replies with a mournful ‘Talaga? Maganda ako?’ as if aware of her character’s fate as a souless figment of Baruha’s madness. It’s good stuff.
I could go on with but to try and point out each allegory and symbolism but that would do you all a disservice. It’s really like peeling an onion -each new layer bares a statisfying revalation that perhaps will bring you to tears.
There’s a bitter tone to the proceedings once it leaves the beginning, but the film relishes it so much you can’t help but get into it. Though it fails to reach the heights acheived by 2006 MMFF entry Tatlong Baraha, Ang Panday 2 is still an experience unlike any other this MMFF season.
PARA SA MGA TAMAD MAGBASA
A polarizing film, but rewards those that give it a chance. The bravest entry in the festival.