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“It’s only words, and words are all I have to take your heart away” – Bee Gees
A lot of times people think they enjoy the movies because of the actors, their portrayal, certain scene settings, or other more visual elements. What they seem to ignore is that language plays a very important role in the drama of things. Choose the wrong words and that could spell the difference between an Oscar and a Razzie. Okay, that may be extreme, but choose the right words and you could turn a Jerry Maguire into a blockbuster with “Show me tha money!”, “You complete me”, and “You had me at hello”. (For a more pinoy touch, replace Jerry Maguire with Bituing Walang Ningning, with “You’re nothing but a second rate, trying hard copycat!”, and I’m sure you know what I mean.)
I think the best feature for Heneral Luna (among all the many things that make the movie great) is the language of the film. The humorous lines, the fluid flow of words, the poetry of it all, these all contribute towards a powerful exchange of words that ironically cannot be given justice through literary description but only through a mere tear and a roaring round of applause.
When Aguinaldo asks Luna to take charge of the soldiers to fight the Americans, he frustratedly says “Paano ako lalaban, Kakagatin ko sila? (How am I going to fight, should I bite them?). This sharp wit and fiery temper were his trademarks, being the brilliant military strategist he was. In the same meeting, he spewed out his now famous “Pag-ibig ng Puta (Love of a whore)” line as described in a previous article. Whether or not Luna actually said these lines does not really matter. To me, it’s this kind of language that adds the right flavor to the movie.
A number of familiar proverbs and cliche phrases have also been used throughout the movie, but I feel that these were employed by the writers to engage the modern audience. With such concepts as “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” and “If you want peace, then prepare for war”, the Gen X and Millennial Audience can better understand the meaning of the conversation compared to some more historically-accurate but archaic-sounding monologue. Even the English Proverb “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” was inserted to add some rhetorical humor into the mix.
Luna also seemed to portray a few of Jesus Christ’s scenes leading up to his crucifixion (particularly similar to Norman Jewison’s “Jesus Christ Superstar”), at least that’s how I saw some of those bits. There was the whipping scene on the train, the table flip, the scene outside the church where he was surrounded by all those vendors, and even a Gethsemane scene of his own, where a lonesome Luna sits on a hill at dusk and utters a short but stabbing line : “Ang taong may damdamin ay hindi alipin (loosely translated as “A passionate man is not a slave”). He would also allude to Jesus’ suffering by claiming to his lover that “Hindi ko asawa ang giyera, krus ko siya. (I am not married to war/battle, it is my cross to bear”).
If we had more movies like this one (I am hopeful, since I heard that this will be a trilogy, as mentioned in the director’s interview over CNN Philippines), then I predict a drastic rise in intellectual, philosophical and poetic filipinos whose works and language will eventually spill over to other forms of art such as literature, music, and dance. And then, as I am free to dream the impossible dream anyway, why not spill over to other aspects of life such as Economy, Politics/Public Service, and Governance and then, maybe one day we will wake up to an alternate reality, where despite being archipelagic and scattered, the Philippines will be one nation. These are merely words, but as these are all I have, I will use them to hope.