Sunday, May 09, 2010

Hihintayin Kita sa Langit (1991)

Hihintayin Kita sa Langit (Carlos Siguion-Reyna, 1991)
English Title: I Will Wait for You in Heaven

Gabriel (Richard Gomez) is a street urchin that was plucked from the streets of Manila by Joaquin Salvador who proceeds to treat him like a son. Milo (Michael de Mesa), Joaquin's real son, who regards Gabriel as competition for his father's love and attention, is sent to Manila after an altercation with Gabriel that left the latter shamed and bruised. Without Milo around, Gabriel is brought up as a Salvador, becoming really close with and eventually falling for Carmina (Dawn Zulueta), Joaquin's daughter. Joaquin suddenly dies of a heart attack, allowing for Milo's return as master of the house, and Gabriel's sudden demotion to servitude. While Gabriel and Carmina still share the same feelings for each other, the promise of the life of a princess which is offered by Alan (Eric Quizon), the wealthy scion of the land-owning Ilustre family, is simply too good to refuse. Thus, Carmina marries Alan as Gabriel disappears to build his own fortune in preparation for his return and revenge.

Upon Gabriel's return, he immediately puts his plan into motion. First, he wins the Salvador property from Milo in a game of cards. Then, he seduces Sandra (Jackie Lou Blanco) into marrying him, in the hopes that his impending wedding would force Carmina decide to just leave Alan to elope with him. Upon learning of this, Alan prevents Carmina from leaving their abode. Gabriel starts to believe that he has totally lost Carmina to Alan, and proceeds with his plan and marries Sandra out of spite for his beloved, weakening Carmina to the point of exhaustion and death.

Ah, Love. Isn’t it just beautiful? At its best, it gives you consummate pleasure, a sudden rush of seemingly perpetual happiness resulting from being overwhelmed by the giddy feeling. At its worst, it hurts without mitigation, even to the point of emotional paralysis and death. Carlos Siguion-Reyna's Hihintayin Kita sa Langit (I Will Wait for You in Heaven), an adaptation of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights by way of William Wyler's 1939 version, exhausts the entire spectrum of the emotion, from the heights of ecstasy to the depths of torture.

It is an impeccably shot film. Cinematographer Romeo Vitug takes advantage of the sprawling hills and the violent shores of Batanes where most of the film was shot. Complementing Vitug’s gorgeous visuals are Ryan Cayabyab’s appropriately swooning musical score and George Canseco’s famous theme song whose lyrics evokes the film’s appreciation of the torturous facet of loving. Gomez, an actor whose chiseled face and physique contemplates the virility of the perfect Filipino man, and Zulueta, an actress whose frequent wide-eyed expressions exemplifies the submissiveness of the traditional Filipina, suit their roles very well. Together, with their undeniable good looks and their matching personalities and characteristics, they represent the perfect romantic couple and the fact that fate and circumstances are pulling them apart, it makes their struggle to stay together even more compelling. The film, from its literary roots down to the minutest technical detail, is designed to create this make-believe world where love is primordial, and everything else becomes subservient to that emotion.

This purposeful romantic sheen heightens the fantasy Siguion-Reyna concocts. It is a fantasy that clearly exploits a nation’s infatuation for larger-than-life struggles, of the downtrodden eventually reversing his fortunes, of victimizers getting their eventual punishment, and of love against all odds. Bronte’s classic work, stripped away of the complexity of its multi-generational narrative, perfectly suits this requirement. Siguion-Reyna shies away from portraying the subtleties of love and instead depicts it in its full grandeur and opulence. We see the emotion depicted in enormous gestures, with the lovers proclaiming their promises against dramatic landscapes, exploding in colossal sobs and tears, and bursting into exuberant expressions of reiterated affections for each other.

Hihintayin Kita sa Langit predictably culminates in the most grandly executed of tragedies. Gabriel, upon learning of Carmina’s condition, rushes to the Ilustre estate where she is kept captive. Carmina, fatally diminished by Alan’s violent jealousy, whittles in Gabriel’s embrace. Gabriel then carries her to the balcony overlooking the ironically serene sea, as they whisper their final apologetic farewells to each other. Alan catches them but his protestations do nothing and he shrinks in the background as the two lovers are consumed by their passions. Siguion-Reyna crafts this scene to perfection: the editing, the Vitug’s precise cinematography, Gomez, Zulueta, Quizon, and Vangie Labalan (who plays Carmina’s nanny) aptly amplified performances, and Cayabyab’s swelling music.

True to its title and to give a semblance of a happy ending, the film leaves its audience with the shot of the two lovers prancing in the hills. This is a direct quote from Wyler’s Wuthering Heights, an ending which director Wyler supposedly disapproved of but producer Samuel Goldwyn insisted on. The ending, awkwardly inserted (segued from the cemetery scene by disembodied laughter; a cinematic device more apt in a ghost story than a romance) making it seem more like an afterthought than anything else, softens the sadness and tames the tragedy. It is not unexpected that Hihintayin Kita sa Langit is regarded today with some reverence, considering that to a certain extent, the film, while not in any way revolutionary, is a competently crafted romance with some moments of absolute beauty, which is something of a rarity at the time it was made.


Noel Vera said...

Heh. Hihintayin has everything except personal investment, I think; this is more the producer's work than the director's. Gomez is woefully miscast, I thought--no way does he look passionate in love, and Dawn makes for a wan Catherine. The man who displays any real passion is Michael De Mesa, and he tends to blow both actors off the screen, and Siguion Reyna knew this; you could see it in the way he stages the actors, to deflect De Mesa's charisma.

Check out his version of The Heiress. There I think Gomez is perfectly cast, the heroine is truly passionate, and you have the creepy, hair-raising feeling that the director is at last delving into very personal substrata.

Oggs Cruz said...

I'd like to believe Gomez and Zulueta were cast more for how they look than how they act, and they do look very good together. i don't mind Zulueta being wan or sickly; isn't the character, or at least this version of Catherine, supposed to be weak-spirited. As for Gomez, he is more like a sex object than anything else. It makes the psychology of the film a lot easier to understand; the lack of depth supports why this film is so well-loved.

I completely agree with Michael de Mesa; and the way Siguion-Reyna blocks or stages his actors is well thought out---even if it means he's compensating for something.

I'm new to Siguion-Reyna. I've seen how terrible he can go (Abot Kamay ang Pangarap --- the final scene is hilarious); but I'm still waiting to be astounded (there are some parts in this film that I thought were beautiful).

Noel Vera said...

I think Abot Kamay is some kind of masterpiece; I keep wanting to include it in my 100 films (maybe I did?).

Casting for looks works, I think, if you don't ask your characters to dominate the film, and Wuthering Heights is all about larger-than-life characters.

Catherine in the book is only physically weak; in spirit she's every bit as fierce and wild and willful as Heathcliff. They're both--untamed, is the best word I can think of. I don't see that quality in this picture. Well, Michael has it, but he's not supposed to.

Oggs Cruz said...

...but Hihintayin Kita sa Langit is less Bronte's Wuthering Heights than it is Goldwyn's Wuthering Heights, which basically turned the novel into an elementary romance, with elementary psychology, and very elementary effects --- Catherine is supposed to be weak, physically, emotionally, probably mentally. Heathcliff is supposed to be brusque, vicious, primal.

Abot Kamay... I'm surprised you think of it that film that way. It is an interesting failure, I'd give it that.

Noel Vera said...

Ah, yes, Wyler's Heights--you're right. I have a lot of problems with that film.

Think of Abot Kamay as his Showgirls, or Plan 9 From Outer Space--the work for which he'll be remembered. I mean, Ikaw Pa Lang ang Minamahal is more psychologically astute and personal, but it doesn't stick to the memory, it doesn't have the power to make one shudder, the way Abot does. You think?

Oggs Cruz said...

I've never seen Ikaw Pa Lang ang Minahal, and the only other Siguion-Reyna film I've seen apart from this and Abot Kamay is Kahapon, May Dalawang Bata (I remember liking it, but it's probably because it was illegal for me too see it in theaters back then).

The thing with Abot Kamay is that it's not as widely despised as Showgirls or Plan 9. It's regarded by some circles as a good film, which it obviously isn't. If it were a real (commercial and critical) failure, I'd give it that distinction of being in the same level as Showgirls or Plan 9, but it needs to be hated more, it needs a unanimous agreement that it is indeed a bad film.

Anonymous said...

Where is Carlos now? is he still directing?

Noel Vera said...

Oh, jeez, Kahapan. That's with the coke-bottle deflowering and the ending where Ara Mina sings the Our Father. I remember that.

I don't think Abot Kamay has to be universally despised; I think it simply has to be shown. One can make up one's mind on the movie immediately upon viewing (I think one can make up one's mind about the movie on the first ten minutes).

Carlos seems to be inactive. Don't know why, really.

Oggs Cruz said...

Kahapon has some beautiful moments, Noel. Some really inspired images; if anything, Siguion-Reyna is a director with a distinct vision --- obvious, i'll-poke-you-in-the-eye vision ---- but a vision nonetheless. That's something Gil Portes, Joel Lamangan, and many of our new directors would pretend to have, or hire great cinematographers to have. The more I think of it, that ending of Abot Kamay, where Maricel marches towards the subdivision guard in full glory, is part of that distinct vision, used to laughable effect. I don't know, I need to see more of his work.

Probably not universally despised, Noel. Maybe less respected. Something like Sakada or Sakay or Tata Esteban's films...

Last thing he did was an omnibus for GMA. Never saw that...

Anonymous said...

Hi Anyone know how or where i can a copy of this movie?

AM said...

Anyone know where i can get a copy of "Hihintayin Kita sa Langit" ?

Anonymous said...

you can watch this movie at just need to be a member to have an access...membership is for free!!