Friday, April 30, 2021

VivaMax: Review of DEATH OF A GIRLFRIEND: Rashomon Redux

April 30, 2021

In a secluded section of a forest, a high-school teenager Christine (AJ Raval) was bound up with ropes, sexually assaulted, stabbed to death, and had her face burnt beyond recognition. The police took into custody and questioned three men who were picked up in the vicinity of the crime -- a forest ranger (Arnold Reyes) who was assigned to patrol that area, a farmer (Raul Morit) who grew exotic plants and her new classmate Alonzo (Diego Loyzaga) who walked with her to school daily. Each man was placing the blame on the other two.

The film was confined to only 3 locations. The main outdoor setting was that one section of a wooded area where Christine walked to school everyday. There would be repetitions of scenes there, with some telling changes depending on the point of view of the one who was telling the story.  There was an interrogation room where an unseen police investigator (Soliman Cruz) was conducting interviews on the three men. A third setting was Alonzo's bedroom, when he told the policeman about his texts to and dreams about Christine. 

AJ Raval debuted earlier this year in Darryl Yap's "Pornstar." In that film and then again here, Raval showed that while she was quite game to engage in gratuitous breast exposure and sex scenes, she was still very green in front of the camera, very self-conscious and awkward. Because of his heft and leg tattoo, Diego Loyzaga certainly did not look like a shy high-school virgin anymore. All his scenes needed suspension of disbelief. Veteran character actors Reyes and Morit were more believable in their shifting characterizations.

In telling his own story and screenplay for the screen, director Yam Laranas was very obviously influenced by the Japanese film classic Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon" (1950). The witnesses related contradictory versions of how one heinous crime had been committed, any one of which could actually be true. Since each witness was also a suspect in this case, each one reduced his own degree of involvement in the hope that this would make them less suspicious, if not totally exonerate them. 

Kurosawa's intent in "Rashomon" was to present multiple truths and allow the audience decide on their own whose version they would believe. Kurosawa did not believe that he should dictate or elaborate on what actually happened. However here, before the film ended, it would seem that Laranas told us who really killed Christine and how that guy did it. But I guess it is still up to us if we should believe that or not. Laranas did not really stay true to Kurosawa's original philosophy of this now-familiar cinematic trope. 5/10.