Alvin Yapan’s storytelling, both in pages and in frames, has always seduced me: the collective mystique of his high-taste, artistic flourishes, his inclination to metaphors, and his irony as an artist, all exude an irresistible allure, of which his debut feature “Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe,” makes use, in pursuit of his true intention, that is, to portray the difficult realities of womanhood, and life, as a whole. If, truly, this is what is sought, then the film has done its task. Yapan, true to his intentions, draws a sympathetic portrait of a woman, embodied perfectly by Irma Adlawan (“Mga Pusang Gala“), as Fe–who, for so long has been battered, yearned and desired (all at the same time), learns life’s selfish truths. Much like in his ”Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa,” Yapan touches here the subject of patriarchy in a pleasingly subdued manner, not so much as to preach, but more so to urge Fe’s growing desperation, and, embitterment towards men, insofar as having a priest–a figure of sacred authority–to claim that the church couldn’t help her, because she didn’t ask. Fe’s dilemma, posed by baskets of fruits left at her house, is far from mundane, but rather, as her neighbor suggests, supernatural: a kapre, famous for his persistence on his women and his bestial monstrosity, apparently courts her, hence the gifts.
“Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe,” (“The Rapture of Fe,” 2009) is a crossroads of the worldly and the opposite; of reality and escape. Yapan, a name no beginner to writing excellent tales (see his novel: “Ang Sandali ng mga Mata“), is clear about this. I recall a particular scene in which Fe sees another basket of fruit–formerly a token of admiration, and it might still be, only now it has turned to something entirely different; something dangerous–and, to her horror, storms her house for a bolo and attacks a plot of soil to quickly bury the basket. It’s a lengthy shot, steady and fixed. Yapan allows the terror out of Fe and Adlawan proves an excellent host to such emotion. She breathes life into Fe, and, time and again, she is Fe. She huffs her cries as she digs the soil in terrifying panic; we grip to our seats, afraid that she might hurt herself come a few more shoves, in which moment we realize: this woman is broken, and we feel awful, helpless, because of the devilishly fixed, steady shot. And so you wonder, for every terrible thing that Fe has faced–her abusive husband (Nonie Buencamino) raping her, and her younger lover (TJ Trinidad), unable to become her salvation–why “Rapture” instead of “Rape”? Perhaps, after all the coldness in this world’s reality, there’s still one man in his own kingdom, who only gave her fruits, the one man who didn’t do her harm, who could take her away to the escape that she yearns.
RATING: 4 stars (out of 4)