Kisapmata Review (1981) – Charo Santos, Jay Ilagan, Vic Silayan, Mike De Leon
Here’s my Kisapmata review which came out 1981 and stars Charo Santos, Jay Ilagan, Vic Silayan, Charito Solis, Ruben Rustia and directed by Mike De Leon.
A retired police sergeant has an unnatural stranglehold over his wife and daughter. His claustrophobically enclosed world is threatened when Santos finds herself pregnant and forced to marry a young man. Silayan attempts to extend his influence over his son-in-law, who resists; there is a confrontation…
OK so just to be clear, my entry point to this film is through crime docus on Youtube. I did see bits and pieces of this online so I decided to sit down and watch it. I have to say its pretty good. Kisapmata is based on Nick Joaquin’s story “The House on Zapote Street” which was turned into a book based on the Pablo Cabading case from the 60s.
Vic Silayan is a brilliant villain when he wants to be. As retired policeman and patriarch Tatang aka Diosdado Carandang he shows different shades of dark. He was never spotlighted as a good man but rather a deep and twisted man with a strict set of morals. He’s also one that shows a good face with a sick and twisted agenda for his daughter.
Charo Santos was great as Mila. She’s got good chemistry with Jay Ilagan which reminds us again that the actor could have done so much had it not been for his untimely death. Her acting here was filled with anger and resentment and vulnerability which was par for the role. Ilagan’s Noel had me on the fence. For one I wanted to root for him obviously but its just so annoying that there were all these red flags but at the same time, as a husband, I know the feeling full well of being a follower because your other half is compelled to do something and you’re dragged alone for the ride.
Cinematography-wise, I’d say the film was excellent.
The film has a lot of trademark Mike De Leon moments and tidbits from impeccable sound design, musical score to the penchant for icons and iconography. Those sweeping french horns and gripping play with the light and dark. Super good.
There are a ton of foreshadowing that’s fun for a rewatch here. The biggest on though has to be the story Tatang tells Mila and Noel while sharing a drink with them. Plus those lines that Charo’s Mila spouts throughout the movie gives us an idea of how things will end.
It’s a great film with a tragic ending so I’d say you’re more akin to enjoy the events than the actual ending.
Trigger Warning for this part as we’ll talk more about the “incest” bit as well as anti-Marcos sentiments
As you know this came out in the 80s so the subject of incest and crimes along the line were taboo, but De Leon managed to make a statement about the crime (not to mention the political overtones targeting then president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos). From what I read, the wife of Cabading tried to stop the release of the film because it painted the deceased poorly but was unable to do so. Mike De Leon’s film managed to hit two birds with one stone on this one.
But I was floored with how well he did a story on two fronts both sickening and sad. There’s the obvious bit about Mila bearing a child from S.A. from her father and then there’s the connection to Martial Law and the Marcoses. Mila is the country, constantly fearing for her well-being and abused by the more powerful “leader” in her life. She’s sick of it and wants to be rid of this once and for all even if she knows that she’s left with a “remembrance” and huge psychological scars.
Its this brave take cleverly hidden in a movie that will make you do a double take on the film.
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