by NICOLE DG. SAMSON
REVENGE AND forgiveness are two sides of the same coin.
Both stem from loss and grief but only with an acceptance of responsibility can forgiveness start to blossom. But when a mistake is swept under the rug to avoid conflict, revenge becomes a glaring option.
Apag (short for “hapag kainan”) is a film of grief and revenge, served with a side of forgiveness. Directed by Brillante Mendoza, the film features a full Pampangueno cast and uses the Kapampangan language to tell its story.
The film tells the story of Alfredo Tuazon (Lito Lapid) and his son Rafael Tuazon (Coco Martin) who find themselves in a car accident that led to the injury of a child and the death of her father. After legal disputes, the victim’s family is hired by the Tuazons to be their housekeepers. Things soon take a turn as the Tuazons expect the return of Alfred from prison.
It is made clear that food is an important way of communication for the characters and was often used as a plot device. The film begins with a scene at a market, with both the Tuazon and Balagtas families buying fresh ingredients. A simple pie becomes the symbol of a loving family, only to crack and break apart as their father is torn away from them.
The families often find themselves in markets and the kitchen, preparing food and enjoying the company of the people around them. While the food themselves held no deeper meanings, it did set the cultural scene and the bonds between each character. Characters with deeper bonds often know and prepare food that the other preferred.
The sound design accentuated the tensest scenes. When Rafael was lamenting over the blood on his hands, the music began to drown out the sound of the water hitting their truck as he felt disconnected from reality. This technique was used often in the film as the characters are often feeling disconnected from reality.
While the film’s sound design and cast were working hard, the camera was working a bit too much. The film often had the camera following each character’s movement. This made a number of scenes nauseating to watch. The shaky movement of the camera coupled with the constant search for the subject of the scene made for an experience that could leave viewers feeling dizzy.
The foreshadowing of the big twist was dragged out, despite obviously alluding to a predictable end. The frequent shots of food imply the bigger role of food in the characters’ lives; as a way to cope, celebrate, or reconcile. It was subtle and fit into the narrative seamlessly. However, the eerie mood whenever the camera panned or froze on Chedeng Balagtas (Mercedes Cabral) and her cold, unreadable stare was less subtle.
The coming revenge was only fueled further by the Tuazons’ disregard for the loss of Matias, the deceased father of the Balagtas family. Emotions began to blow over as the family celebrated the return of Alfred, the convicted father. The mistreatment and disregard for the Balagtas became the last evidence that completed the riddle.
Apag is not a wholesome, feel-good film. It is a tragic story of loss and revenge. Despite the problems with the overall presentation of the film, the script managed to dodge expositional dialogue and told the story in a way that got the viewers slowly piecing the puzzle pieces it left behind. It showcased how the skeletons in the closet will eventually come out if they are left to fester and not resolved. When revenge becomes the chosen path, the fight becomes a losing battle that perpetuates a cycle of pain. F