Deeply Felt30 January 2009Author: charliekoon from Philippines (From IMDB.com)
It is actually hard to restrain one's emotion especially on my part in watching the film Concerto. The subject matter is in fact a taboo with our Japanese ancestors and relatives. It really hurts to hear people say; Japanese people are violent. Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies is a prime example that even in Japan at the time of war, they also suffered. Concerto tackles a story of a Filipino family during the Japanese Occupation. It is atypical with its wartime depiction, much of it with subtlety and objectivity. It tries to show some sympathy towards the Japanese soldiers. It could be all true that the horrifying events are just the consequence of war.Concerto is written and directed by Paul Alexander Morales. It tells the story of a family during wartime in Davao. During the Japanese Occupation, the family of Ricardo (Nonoy Froilan) and his wife Julia (Sharmaine Buencamino) evacuates their house in the city and stays in the farm of their relative. Their son Joselito (Jay Aquitania) shows fondness towards the Japanese culture. Joselito knows how to speak Nihonggo; which in return gets the consideration from the Japanese soldiers. Aside from the daily ration of fried sweetened potatoes, the Japanese soldiers always had lavish dinners in their home. His sister Maria (Yna Asistio) also showed some kindness towards the Japanese and even had a slight romance with one of the soldiers. But their other sibling Niña (Meryll Soriano) and their father Ricardo are hesitant in showing the same empathy.
The vital aspect for a period film to be successful is if it renders a film with accuracy. Concerto is able to mobilize their resources and come up with a film scenario that could be sufficiently convincing for a period look. It was able to show a 1940's era without too much pretension. The story itself is set in a farm. That is an advantage on their part. The story happens during the Japanese Occupation. Morales gives deference to his story material by using authentic Japanese actors. This is quite admirable for obvious reasons. Filipino characters can only be played by Filipinos.With the film's title, some people confuse it with its inclination to music rather than a film. Some thought it is a musical extravaganza of some sort. Anyhow, Concerto offers a little tribute on how fruitful our music was produced in those times. Yna Asistio's character Maria play and sings with the piano a common Visayan song entitled "Rosas Pandan" which is written by the famous Domingo Lopez. The other song played in the film is written by the National Artist Nicanor Abelardo. The song "Nasaan Ka Irog" gives a sense of nostalgia and it would really stimulate a sense of sentimentality. One evening, Joselito sings a famous Japanese patriotic song "Aikoku Koshinkyoku" by Morikawa Sachio. The Japanese soldiers join him with much enthusiasm and even cry "Banzai" afterwards. Classical Composition of Chopin and Beethoven was also played. Despite political and social barriers, the language of music is universal as it breaks walls.
The story of Concerto was based on the diary of Lt. Col. Anastacio Campo. "Diary of the War: Memoirs of WWII" is interpreted by the director's own mother Virginia Yap Morales. The director has given a touch of melodrama with a more subtle approach in letting out human emotions. Joselito's family might be a common welcoming family in your community. Each member might have differing opinions and approach of thinking. But here, we see them come together during the hardest of times. They entertain the Japanese soldiers wholeheartedly and provide them succulent meals in all chances. We cannot argue that Joselito's comprehension with Nihonggo did help them save his family's lives. War is not completely forgotten. The family has shown kindness but there are subtle points that there are calculated actions.
At one point, we will be questioning the kindness within us. Human sufferings, crisis, and wars might change our outlook in life. It will make monsters of us. The frightening truth is we tend to be influenced with austere similitude to life's cruelty. Julia has a very good approach to combat misery and that is through prayer. Their family shows us a golden heart and has revealed it at the time when we should stay away from modesty. The Japanese too has shown compassion. One even knows how to show love and affection through Maria. Even Ricardo's determination to show composure to the people who tortured and beat him is quite remarkable. Concerto humanizes us by showing both sides of the wall. With my mutual blood coming from two races, Concerto has been very sensitive with its rendition of a Filipino-Japanese relationship during the time of aggression. My partiality did not matter anymore because I was moved by the film completely. RATING 3.5/5
Concerto (Paul Alexander Morales, 2008)
Looking at the roster of Filipino period films released during the last five years that take place during the Pacific War (a very short list that includes Joel Lamangan's Aishite Imasu (Mahal Kita) 1941 (I Love You 1941, 2004), Cesar Montano's Panaghoy sa Suba (The Call of the River, 2004), and Lamangan's Blue Moon (2006)) and comparing it to Hollywood-funded Pacific War flicks like John Dahl's The Great Raid (2005), it becomes apparent that budgetary constraints imposed by cash-strapped film studios prevent filmmakers from efficiently recreating the period. While Dahl had millions of dollars to recreate 1940's Manila in the vast wildernesses of Australia, local filmmakers make do with the diminishing remaining edifices from that era (these edifices are often inaccurate representations of their former selves, with fresh coats of paint and other paraphernalia that couldn't have come from the 40's). If no near-accurate implements from the period exists, producers make do with sloppy digital effects.
Paul Alexander Morales' Concerto is set in Davao, which prior to the Pacific War was home to thousands of Japanese civilians who were living peacefully with the locals. Thus, when the war broke out, allegiances are broken, enemies are made, and friendships are torn. The film centers on a family who, after being evicted from their house by the invading Japanese, were forced to live in the outskirts of the city. Concerto is remarkable because with its meager budget (a fraction of the budget of these mainstream Filipino films, working primarily on the P500,000 (roughly $10,000) grant of Cinemalaya, an annual digital film festival) and other funds it can raise elsewhere, it succeeded in capturing the feel and atmopshere period it manages to recreate.
There are very few action sequences in this war film (the battle scenes are filmed as montages: of shot of the skies edited with silhouettes of Japanese soldiers shooting at the sky, all complemented by apt sound effects). Concerto mainly rests in its attempt to look beyond the visceral effects of the war and concentrate on its repercussions on a family that tries to weather through. What Concerto lacks in bodycount, bullets and explosions, it makes up with human complications arising out of the circumstance of war. Morales paints these wartime complications with impressive subtlety, without neglecting the need for a strong emotional pull to resonate with his audience. The film deals primarily with the fragile threads that are tested and strained by the cruel mechanics of war. Thus, Morales' characters, from the family forced into exile from their beloved home to the Japanese invaders, are distinctly all victims of history's relentless movement.