By TAFFY ARELLA M. BERNALES
WHAT one reveres and idolizes on screen, he might also grow to detest. Similarly, Martin Pangan’s (Elijah Canlas) admiration for TV reporter Lawrence Manalastas (Enzo Pineda) significantly gets distorted when Martin discovers the true nature of his idol after a night of coffee.
Written and directed by Jason Paul Laxama, He Who Is Without Sin is an official entry for Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino 2020. It tells the disturbing story of how broadcasting student Martin was left traumatized after an encounter with his idol. In the film, seventeen-year-old Martin tells three versions of his experience to his friends Klarisse (Lara Fortuna) and Neil (Gio Gahol), separately.
The three versions can be compared to the Kardashev scale. In a random encounter on the streets, Lawrence interviews Martin for his opinion on aliens invading the Earth. In response, Martin briefly mentions the Kardashev scale and how it classifies three types of speculated civilizations based on energy consumption.
Laxamana subtly incorporated this into the three narratives of Martin’s second meeting with Lawrence. The first version bears no hint of being unsettling at all: a night-hangout in a coffee shop and a casual conversation about Lawrence’s profession and Martin’s potential as a reporter. The second one, however, provokes suspicion and change to wariness within Klarisse. Here, Martin tiptoes around uncomfortable details of the meeting, like Lawrence inviting Martin inside the shop’s bathroom. In the last version, Martin completely reveals to Neil the grim and immoral side of the idolized reporter. This somehow reflects his previous opinion about Kardashev’s third type of civilization— the most formidable one due to its capacity of manipulating an entire galaxy’s energy.
Canlas’s performance is superb. He pulls viewers in through the versatile execution of his character: from his passionate, conviction-filled reporting to his uncomfortable acts of avoidance and pretense in the car scenes. In a part wherein he is supposedly taking a bath, Canlas exhibits range as he performs high and low-pitched monologues in his underwear. While doing so, he exaggerates his facial expressions and hand gestures. The dark lighting and ominous score further enhance the effect of him seemingly losing his mind.
Pineda, on the other hand, displays a character of irony. He showcases the contradictions of Lawrence’s supposed-professionalism and virtuousness via a sunny demeanor and eloquence. Throughout the film, it is noteworthy how he maintains the act of being unproblematic despite his character’s fraudulence. Lawrence casually hides behind red flags as he accompanies Martin in the coffee shop, car, and apartment. Moreso, Lawrence treats Martin with lollipops to hide the bitter actuality of his unsavory intentions towards the minor.
The screenplay was well-carried out by both actors who each portrayed illusions of credibility— Martin with his storytelling, and Lawrence with his whole deceptive persona. Through this, Laxamana turns the tables. He exposes a different angle on media portrayal by unraveling the truth behind TV personalities. Under the bright spotlight are journalists, the supposed-conduits of credibility. Wrapping the whole film in desaturated colors, he twists the overrated idolatry towards people on screen— after all, viewers would only see their surface personalities on TV.
However, the movie ends leaving viewers highly concerned over Martin’s unheeded disenchantment with his idol. What is interesting is how the film seems meant to be left as is. This is evident in the irony that surfaces after Neil assures Martin of God’s punishment for Lawrence.
He Who Is Without Sin certainly lives up to its name. Moreover, it exposes the harsh truth of how those with power can easily get away while having the upper hand. In the end, Lawrence’s dominance makes Martin cower in self-blame and confusion, leaving the concept of sin in the dust.
The film, overall, makes one do a double-take towards idols and the mere credibility of their identities. Conclusively, figures people see as embodiments of righteousness can be distorted by a whiff of their stench. The presentable face in front of a camera can just be a mask hiding the monster underneath, ready to prey on the vulnerable. F