Baconaua was the first and only full-length feature that I caught on this year’s Cinemalaya (I need to have a better strategy next year) and it took me a week to finally come out with this review. Even a week after I’ve reviewed the essence of the film and replayed the scenes in my mind, I’m still on the fence whether I liked it or not.
Synopsis: After a turbulent squall in the night, villagers wake up to the astonishing sight of the sea that has turned red. (source: Cinemalaya)
On paper, Joseph Israel Laban’s Baconaua which translates to “Sea Serpent) seemed like quite an interesting watch. It was dark and brooding and it promised excellent cinematography on top of artistic delivery.
Aesthetically, I must laud Laban and his cinematographer for this marvel of cinema. Each scene is framed to perfection and is actually quite reminiscent of filmmaker Lav Diaz’s style, which is high praise, indeed. Even the underwater and aerial shots were excellent. While it suffers from poor lighting, which I have found to be the downside to most independently produced films, the film still manages to deliver on a film that depicts the situation in a coastal town which survives on routine.
Baconaua manages to establish the main story of three siblings who lose their father at sea and is trying to survive with their new norm. While it was implied that the search for the father was actually the overarching plot of the story, it was not. Nor did the love triangle between the two sisters and the fisherman Pol, lead to anything significant.
To tell his story, Laban liberally uses symbolisms to establish the tension for the climax of the movie, which never actually happens. It progresses at a singular pace, leaving bread crumbs and clues to build up into something that never quite materializes.
I don’t know if I just failed to make the connection between the symbols and the posturing that I missed the real essence of the story. Was the message a big caveat against things that appear to be a blessing but are actually the opposite? Was it a Biblical reference to the forbidden fruit? I was just surprised that while I was still waiting for something big to happen, the movie was already over.
No matter the case, I think Baconaua would have been a better film if it did not focus too much on making its message a big mystery to solve for its audience. While it carried out the artistic side of the film, I believe that the really good movies are those that manage to find the balance between art and entertainment and one that reaches all types of audience. Call me uncultured but this is me #justsaying.