Thursday, October 27, 2016

Damortis (Briccio Santos, 1986)

The film Damortis begins with a footage of bloodied penitents during the Lenten season. A dozen of prostrated penitents mirror the passion and sufferings of Jesus Christ. At various points of the film, the different personas and interpretations of Jesus are shown or discussed. A radio program suggests Jesus as mere human. Foremost image that emerge though is that of a healing Christ.

Miguel, an ex-seminarian, returns to his hometown of Damortis in La Union because his father recently died. During his stay in that place, he reconnects with his healing power and assumes the title of local faith healer. He rekindles his relationship with his childhood friend, Anna (Madeleine Nicolas). The two friends later married after a whirlwind courtship.

Anna assists Miguel in his healing sessions. She initiates the idea of putting up donation boxes. The windfall from clients became so big they were able to buy and transfer to a bigger house. Alas, the couple’s love for more money led to their downfall. 

Long-haired and bearded Lando, another childhood friend of Miguel, becomes his protégé. He usurps the role of foremost healer in their town after Miguel’s healing power wanes. Not content with getting Miguel’s exalted position, Lando starts to covet his long-time crush, Anna.

The personas of the major characters can be gauged by the way they use their hands. The healing hands of Miguel become accustomed to holding alcohol bottles and gamecocks. The lustful Lando mashes the breasts of his patient. An affluent Anna becomes stingy with her money when relatives ask for help. When confronted by Miguel on her tendency to spend money on material things, her initial reaction was to raise her hands and hide her earrings. She tries her best to hold on to her possessions.

Lando entices Anna to leave Damortis and live with him. He promises to shower her with wealth coming from his healing sessions. With her husband imprisoned, Anna decides to meet up with Lando.

The last image of a hand we see is that of a killing hand. The climactic scene serves as a bookend along with the initial scenes of bloodied Christ-like figures.

I always associate Briccio Santos with the film Kung Mangarap Ka't Magising. He portrayed the husband of Hilda Koronel. But he is more than an actor.

Santos did well with his stewardship of the Film Development Council of the Philippines. The annual holding of international film festivals and the creation of videotheques in major cities are just some of his accomplishments. But he is more than an administrator.

Santos is also an exceptional filmmaker and the hypnotic Damortis is proof of that. The restored film highlights the vibrancy of the color red. The scarlet color prefigures the bloody faith healing rites and the cathartic ending.

No comments:

Post a Comment