LIGO NA Ü, LAPIT NA ME (Erick Salud)
I partially read Eros Atalia’s novel before actually seeing the movie, and one difference I’ve noticed is that the movie did not follow the order of events in the book. But that isn’t my main objection to the movie adaptation.
There was a lot of hype that surrounded even before the movie premiered during the seventh Cinemalaya at CCP, and I am one who was hit by all the buzz. I guess most of the festival’s audience (which are students) dig love stories, especially painful love stories. I remember the same reception for Jade Castro’s ENDO.
I am not a buzz kill for these sorts of movies. I love watching people suffer in the name of love because only then, lessons are taught and empathy is expressed. However, I cannot get my head around the confused translation of Eros Atalia’s novel onscreen.
When you’ve seen Wong Kar Wai and Almodovar and even Adolfo Alix, Jr. discuss about the pain of unrequited love, LIGO NA Ü stands elementary. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve read the entire novel prior to writing this review, and I enjoyed Atalia’s vivid and detailed canvas of heartbreak, which begs the question “what the hell happened during the filming process”?
Most of the details in the book are in the movie. Numerous lines were even lifted verbatim. However, (and this is only my opinion) the most colourful musings of the main character, Intoy were not brought onscreen. I especially loved that part about how to deal with a cheating wife.
Why is this bit important? Not only are these parts the most humorous in the story, they also reinforce the character of Intoy as a human being, how he thinks. The Intoy in the film is an alien. Edgar Allan Guzman is miscast. Too many times Intoy in the novel says that his is a face “that only a mother can love”, and then we get Guzman who looks like someone fresh out of an underwear ad.
Mercedes Cabral on the other hand is fit for the role of Jen, the foxy mysterious temptress who is every lad’s dream. I just wished Cabral did not try too hard to sound sexy or tempting when she delivered her lines. She could have acted normally and we could have had a more legitimate Jen.
Maybe the problem is in the editing. I did not feel compelled or thrilled or updated even. The scenes looked like separate happenings without a seamless thread to go on. A scene enters after another, and all we have as transition is Guzman’s VO, which doesn’t usually hit the proper timing.
Or it could also be in the visual translation. In the scene where Intoy looks for “Jen” in the red light district of Quezon City, it is vague as a windshield during a snowstorm if he is looking for “the” Jen, or a prostitute named “Jen”, or an imaginary Jen. The novel is quite clear about this part.
The problem about adaptations is that when you cut scenes—the good ones, the important ones, the ones that bring logic to the story are the ones that get cut.
If it’s any consolation, one thing the filmmakers got right in the movie is when Intoy and Jen are in bed, and Jen starts to cry for whatever reason. For me it is an effective visual representation of Jen’s feelings for Intoy, even if it isn’t mentioned in the novel. Then again, it could me imaginary so we can’t say for certain. To be fair, screenwriter Gerry Gracio and director Erick Salud did play with the story and they managed to make certain elements palatable.
I was excited about LIGO primarily because it is the first contemporary local novel in recent memory that got a big screen adaptation. After seeing that, most of my expectations weren’t met but I am not fully disappointed. I am still hopeful that we can make quality adaptations of contemporary local literature. The thing about this genre is, the target audience of the movie is also the audience of the book, which also happens to be the younger crowd who dominates Cinemalaya year after year. I don’t know about other people, but I as part of the younger crowd and as an observer was certainly expecting for more.