Ang Larawan: This Nick Joaquin Classic Continues To Captivate Audiences Nationwide
The plot revolves around the much talked-about painting of the high-profile artist Don Lorenzo Marasigan, his refusal to sell it, and the dilemma it imposes on his two spinster daughters, Candida and Paula.
When the play the opens, the family that once led a life of luxury and elegance is now living in reduced circumstances. Don Lorenzo has not produced any painting in years, and for financial support, the sisters have become dependent on their more fortunate siblings, Manolo and Pepang, who want to sell the house. To maintain a steady income while keeping the house, to which Paula and Candida are sentimentally attached, they take in a boarder - Tony Javier, a self-indulgent pianist who brings floozies to their home.
Soon afterwards, it is revealed that Don Lorenzo has made one painting – possibly his last. Entitled Portrait of a Filipino, the painting features the mythological Greco-Roman hero Aeneas carrying his father Anchises out from the fire-engulfed city of Troy. Don Lorenzo’s work attracts an array of characters, all vying for its ownership. The sisters must decide on the painting’s sale, which, in turn, will decide their fate.
A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino remains to be one of Nick Joaquin’s most famous works. It has been staged for years, here and abroad. Ang Larawan, its film adaptation, is based on the musical of the same name, with the libretto written in Filipino by National Artist for Theater Rolando Tinio and the music composed by Ryan Cayabyab.
The play’s theme of family conflict and the incursion of Western ideas into Filipino culture transcends time. For a story that has been told and re-told throughout the years, the challenge for this film is to bring something new to the moviegoers.
To say that this movie is star-studded would be an understatement. Rachel Alejandro reprises her role as Paula at an age more appropriate now than when she first played the part in 1997. Joanna Ampil of West End fame shines in her depiction of Candida, and expresses the complexities of her character effectively. Nonie Buencamino and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo’s portrayal of the other two Marasigan siblings makes you despise their apathy towards their own family. The boarder Tony Javier is brought to life by Paulo Avelino, who stands on his own amongst a cast of veteran musical performers. The year-long rehearsals for the film evidently have paid off, as each emotion is powerfully conveyed by the characters singing their hearts out.
There are moments in the film when it feels confined to one space, but one should remember that the story was originally meant for the stage. After all, Ang Larawan isn’t here to break grounds in the technical aspects of film. Apart from keeping local classical literature alive, its purpose is to spark a discussion amongst ourselves – in a fast changing world, how does one stay true to oneself?
Ang Larawan made its world premiere at the 30th Tokyo International Film Festival where it was a finalist for the Asian Future Prize Award, and opened the 2017 Cinematografo International Film Festival in San Francisco. The film makes its Philippine debut in the 2017 Metro Manila Film Festival, on 25 December.