For years, Director Erik Matti has been consistently churning out high quality films, whether it be produced through indie or mainstream. I was super excited that after last year’s issues with Honor Thy Father, which I believed should have won best picture, his film Seklusyon made the cut for this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival.
I usually start to watch movies on the first day of the festival but this year, I found myself falling behind because of lack of time. I still have my eyes set on several other films which I will hopefully be able to see until New Year’s Day but Seklusyon was the first one my friend agreed to (Mom and I will see Kabisera, and hopefully double up with Die Beautiful tomorrow).
One thing I could say for Seklusyon was it took darkness very seriously — delivering it thematically and literally as some key scenes in the movie was mired in so much darkness that I was unable to process what actually happened. I’m not sure if this was a problem of the original film or the cinema’s projection (I watched at Robinson’s Manila) but it was a major issue in fully appreciating the film, which was overall another good suspense film to add to local cinema.
SYNOPSIS: The film revolves around the final week before the ordainment of four deacons — Miguel (Ronnie Alonte), Fabian (Dominic Roque), Carlo (JR Versales) and Marco (John Vic de Guzman), who have to survive complete isolation in a secluded old house that is run by a former priest Mang Salvador (Lou Veloso). While cooped in the house, they are forced to face their demons to make sure that they are fully ready to become priests and serve their ministry. After a tragic event, Angela (Rhed Bustamante), a child who is believed to be a living saint, and her guardian Madre Cecilia (Phoebe Walker) arrive at the house to seek refuge.
The film did a great job in laying the groundwork for the questions about miracles, faith and false prophets that has plagued the church for centuries. The fact that Padre Ricardo (Neil Ryan Sese) was investigating the truth behind Angela’s “miracles” was in itself a parallel storyline that dealt with the child and the nun’s backtories that successfully merged with the events going on inside the Seklusyon by the end.
The movie had several elements working for it. There was a mystery about what demons the deacons would have to face while inside Seklusyon and why those demons were the ones chosen to plague them. Their faiths were tested by temptation and coercion by the devil’s envoy and more than not, the envoy succeeded, as was expected in a film such as this.
The film had great cinematography and the production design was very consistent for a film set after the Japanese war. The script had a lot of food for thought and inspired a lot of questions about faith. The dialogue was very engaging, and this was essential to hold the audience’s interest in a film that had a lot of things to say.
It was also interesting to note that the demons that challenged the deacons were mostly reflective of the controversies that the church has dealt with in the past and in the present. It also led to questions about how the devil worked his/her way into the hearts and minds of even the most devoted of God’s followers.
I liked that there was a pretty solid story that served as the backbone of the entire film and its beauty was its ability to nurse the suspense and keep most audiences guessing until the very end. For horror lovers, the twist may not be so much of a surprise but it was executed well so that’s a major plus.
My main complaint however, was the casting of Ronnie Alonte as the lead character. I understand that newbies need to be given a chance to shine and test their mettle with challenging material, but for this, I felt that he was not fit for the role.
Maybe he still wasn’t ready to take on such a complex character that he failed to create levels for his character. It seemed that from beginning to end, Miguel was in a single state, raising and lowering his alarm level with only the barest minimum despite the magnitude of his discoveries. It seemed unnatural. Despite his character’s powerful faith and determined words, they remained words that were not backed up by appropriate action. In the end, I felt no sympathy for Miguel. I didn’t care whether he lived or died because he was just there. He didn’t seem real.
On the contrary, I loved how child star Rhed Bustamante shifted her character with subtle nuances. Her portrayal spoke of maturity for her young age. This child should be one to watch out for.