By PATRICK V. MIGUEL
BEFORE A butterfly spreads its wings, it must first undergo metamorphosis. Beginning as a larva, it gradually grows from time to time by shedding skin, leaving traces of what it used to be and starting anew. As it nears maturity, it entombs itself in a silky chrysalis. Inside, the caterpillar confines itself to transform into its true form. Once ready, it frees itself from the cocoon in order to spread its wings and fly.
In the 15th year of the Cinema One Originals film festival, director Jose Enrique Tiglas makes his debut through Metamorphosis. It narrates the story of Adam (Gold Azeron) who discovers that he is intersex. In the film, he is challenged to cope with the changes in his life by accepting and addressing his unique condition.
Metamorphosis is a one of a kind film in the Philippines. For the first time in the history of Cinema One Originals, an intersex protagonist is showcased. It is a way of educating the audience regarding intersexuality by putting them in the shoes of the main character. The story tackled themes such as coming-of-age, LGBTQIA+, and life through the eyes of a marginalized person oppressed in a society with heteronormative standards.
The film is set in a small town, Natividad, during the 90s. Adam, a 15-year old boy, has lived most of his life in a remote town as a typical teenager. One day, the most unexpected thing happens to him—he experiences his first menarche. After this unforeseen and unusual incident, everything begins to change in his life; first, his relationship with his parents, and last, his sexuality.
Metamorphosis is beautiful as every aspect of it is aesthetically pleasing—starting from the cinematography that gives an emotional impact frame after frame. All throughout, the film made use of a size 40mm lens which mimicked the perspective of a person. The color-grading used a yellowish tone that reflected the general mood of the film, which was enlightenment in the subject of intersexuality. Another addition is the hint of purple that was added to the color swatch which represented Adam’s sexual exploration and desires by experimenting with both male and female partners. Both colors—yellow and purple—were used and integrated to signify the flag of the intersex, in a way of upholding their pride.
Symbolism is observed throughout the film as there are deeper meanings behind the film’s cinematic way of capturing scenes. An example of it is the metamorphosis of a caterpillar that can be seen inside Adam’s bedroom which reflected the progress of his transformation toward his real self. Another attestation is Adam’s masturbation to both genitals at the same time which signifies his acceptance of his intersexuality.
Relevant character development is observed throughout the film. It was not only applicable to the main character but also to the people around him like his parents and his friend, Angel (Iana Bernandez). In the beginning of the film, his father (Ricky Davao) and mother (Yayo Aguila) were Christian conservatives who relayed the Bible’s “image and likeness of God” to Adam’s condition. But as the movie progressed, there occurred a metanoia which led them to accept the situation, in a way that science outweighs the Bible. As for Angel, she first appeared as the stereotypical promiscuous character based on her fashion sense and her job, however, it is later revealed that she is more than her exterior—she is a good friend.
Azeron’s portrayal of an intersex was compelling and believable. By incorporating feminine clothing into a masculine wardrobe, he was able to exude an androgynous aura that was further strengthened by his soft facial features. However he did not rely on his looks solely; he also enacted every emotion he delivered accurately. Despite being only one character, he was able to portray both masculine and feminine characteristics simultaneously.
Adam first lays in bed, covering himself with his kulambo he has grown using. It is a metaphor to his cocoon where he found security from encompassing himself inside. It served as a blanket by concealing his true self—the one that was developed inside. In its protective casing, the caterpillar slowly transforms before emerging as a butterfly.
The only difference between Adam and a caterpillar is that the latter is expected to transform while Adam is not. In biology, a larva will modify into a butterfly, which is an example of metamorphosis. With humans, there will never be a process of transformation but only a means of development through physical and emotional growth. However, what makes Adam special is that he went through both, starting from the conversion of his body to the maturation of his character. His whole existence is unique as an intersex and yet his metamorphosis led him to accept the entirety of his self. F