Cinemalaya Movie Review: Baconaua

Baconaua is an uninvolving family drama because of a listless story whose themes get lost in a tedious plot.

After a particularly strong squall, a sleepy fishing village on a tiny island in Southern Tagalog wakes up to an astonishing sight – their sea has turned red. Floating on their waters are thousands of apples. No one knows where they came from. Some suspect this is a bad omen from the baconaua – a creature of myth. Few believe it to be a miracle from heaven, while others fear a more sinister source.

Fishing, like farming, is a specific way of life wherein you are subjected to the indifference and intolerance of nature. The sea never gives back what it takes, one character says, and its a fact that the inhabitants of a fishing village has grown accustomed to.

Baconaua is a story about people under the mercy of such fate, focused on an eldest daughter whose forcibly turned into the head of the family overnight. Unfortunately, a squall is not the only thing that she must lookout for to protect her siblings.

Divina, played by Elora Espano, don’t get to do much here, but she does well enough, as well as the rest of the cast.

You can tell that Baconaua has an idea and its consistent enough to establish a dark mood over its story, but whatever theme it’s trying to say is lost in a tedious script.

The movie doesn’t have a well written lead to steer the narrative. Divina doesn’t know what her siblings are up to and can’t really do anything about it. What they’re involved in is mixed with quasi supernatural elements, so it’s not clear what this movie is trying to be.

What’s clear is the movie tries hard to be a dark and moody story, but takes it too literally. Several scenes are so dark that you don’t know what’s going on. The colors are de-saturated that the supposed sea of red is actually unidentifiable red clumps on the shore.

As a result, its difficult to grasp what this movie is trying to say or make any substantial interpretation out of it. You can see that Divina is up against threats from the outside and within, but the movie can’t tie all these together to deliver a compelling theme.

My Rating: 4/10

 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. DJ R. says:

    It’s the kind of ‘art film’ that’s been quite a mainstay in Cinemalaya’s lineups through the years, isn’t it. The type that intentionally obfuscates its message under tedium. I think it does say something coherent, but I’d have to do repeat viewings to be sure, and that would be no fun. But based on my one viewing, I think it’s a postcolonial critique/cautionary tale: a strong clue is the national anthem that’s played in Spanish and then English, but never in Filipino. And of course, that Chinese character, the present and immediate ‘threat’. Then these are connected with the biblical motifs of temptations (Eve’s apple) and omens (an apocalyptic Revelations verse opens the film). Yeah. If I feel like it, I’ll blog more about this theory.

    1. Arline says:

      I thought about that too, but the problem with this movie is that it sprinkles ideas here and there then makes itself too dark and tedious to understand anything at all. I get the whole arthouse thing where you embed themes into the visuals and storytelling elements, but this movie is just trying too hard.

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