August 4, 2013
"Amor Y Muerte" is set in the 16th century in Polo, Bulacan, at about the time of Lakandula's revolt in Tondo. A native Tagala named Amor (Althea Vega) is married to a Spanish official named Diego (Markki Stroem). From being completely lusty and free from inhibitions, Amor gets slowly transformed into the sedate, straight-laced Spanish señora her husband wants her to be.
One day, Diego calls a wild man from the forest named Apitong (Adrian Sebastian) to bring a python to control the rats infesting their house. Apparently, Apitong was Amor's old beau and seeing him again wakes Amor's passion. When Diego was summoned to Manila to help quell Lakandula's rebellion, Amor seizes the opportunity to rekindle her long-repressed carnal desires with Apitong and his loincloth.
As with all stories about infidelity, we all know already how this will all end.
The actors' wretched acting made watching this supposedly dramatic film inadvertently and excruciatingly funny. The acting from the three leads was embarrassingly amateurish. There was nothing natural about any of them. Everything looked very staged and mechanical.
Given his previous clean-cut image, the bold nudity by Markki Stroem was the unexpected novelty factor used for selling this film. However, he was always so stiff when he was moving. He was very stilted in the delivery of his lines. Neither his Spanish nor this Tagalog with Spanish accent were convincing. He looked completely miscast in his role.
Althea Vega is an exotic morena beauty with a healthy bosom and stern eyebrows, in the lines of Techie Agbayani or Maria Isabel Lopez. Maybe because it is her first major film, everything she did was artificial, exaggerated and hysterical. While those her excessively loud love-making noises may have been indicated in the screenplay, but her unnatural reactions when she sees rats or snakes were out of this world.
The story is old-hat adultery tale transported to the 16th century. However, they could not even convince us that we were in the 16th century Philippines. The costumes and the make-up could have been a lot better, but I give that pass because of limited budget. The worst offender in the production design were those scrolls which the priest used for religious teaching. Those were obviously modern-day translucent paper, held by what looked like plastic rods, with text written using markers!
I would give this production a half-star for its audacity to bring back a lost genre in local movies-- the bold flicks that the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines made "legit" back in the 1980s. Ultimately, "Amor Y Muerte" is simply soft porn flimsily disguised as a historical commentary about the bad effects of Spanish colonization and the Catholic Church on Filipino pre-colonial life and culture.
Also, an additional half-star goes to the late Amable Quiambao, whose acting was the best of the whole cast (though that is not really saying much). For her quiet role as Amor's Tiya Soledad, a former "katalonan" ("spiritual leader") converted to Catholicism, I believe she is already a lock for a posthumous Best Supporting Actress Award. 1/5.