Saturday, July 21, 2012

Posas (2012)

Irony-Crafted Shackles in Lawrence Fajardo's Posas (Shackled)
by Francis Joseph A. Cruz

Lawrence Fajardo’s Posas (Shackled) opens with shots of slogan-bearing stickers tackily pasted on a police van. “To serve and protect,” the weathered sticker boldly declares. A cop, finished from cleaning the van, cheerfully walks into the station to do his rounds, randomly throwing jokes to his fellow cops, readying himself for another day of crime-fighting. The station’s jail is filled to the brim with criminals and other lowlifes, all of whom casually greet their erstwhile nemesis either a good morning or witty retort. It certainly appears the police are doing their job very well.

However, Fajardo’s film does not seek to revere the police. It does the opposite. It attempts to break the propagated myth of the police. It makes use of the most obvious of ironies, juxtaposing slogans and symbols with acts that blatantly betray those symbols’ meanings. In a way, Posas can be considered a brave film. By tackling issues that are normally and traditionally shared through whispered blind items and urban legends, it exposes corruption in the very center of the institution that seeks to eradicate it.

Fajardo manages to craft truly engaging moments in the film. The chase scene between the cops and the pickpocket that has Fajardo’s camera rushing along busy alleyways and tight corridors of rundown buildings is a showcase of formidable directing and editing. In the film’s climax, Fajardo drowns his visuals with a cacophony of sighs, pleas, and other animal sounds, heightening the suspense and terror, and more importantly, breaking the tyranny of real time with something both imaginative and cinematic.

Unfortunately, the film is wanting of the very ingredient that could have rendered its intentions effective. Despite its efforts to viscerally depict the harrowing experiences of petty crooks under the unforgiving hands of their uniformed captors, it still lacks the requisite emotions to complete the circle and to deliver the message fully. While there is anger and frustration, it is only perfunctory to what is happening onscreen. The emotions are limited to the drama that is depicted, reserved only for the characters that get victimized. As a fictionalized exposé, it gets shackled by its narrative method, trapped within the term of the story, unable to break-out, to scream, to raise fists in fury. There is only so much one can witness and experience within a day in the life, no matter how conveniently plotted that day is.

That particular day Posas is set in would have a pickpocket (Nico Antonio), uncharacteristically naïve in the police system despite being very crafty in his thievery, steal an expensive cellular phone, get chased in the crowd, suffer police brutality, tearfully plead with his mother, get dragged through the initial stages of criminal prosecution, get educated about the loopholes of the country’s criminal laws that would allow him to be released but with particularly terrifying repercussions. The story is designed specifically to pinpoint the wrongs of the system. There is simply no room for subtlety. Yet, with all its intentions to shock and alarm, the film still feels timid, inert and benign. There is just that inexplicable disconnect that prevents the material from transcending the boundaries set by its chosen form and framework.

(Cross-published in Twitch and ABS-CBNnews.)


Anonymous said...

" it gets shackled by its narrative method, trapped within the term of the story, unable to break-out, to scream, to raise fists in fury. "

The movie may have been a bit too laid back at the first half, and at the beginning of the second ( due to the many jokey scenes ), but stepped up soon as Art Acuna's character did his thing. And it was wise that the shocking beats were embedded in that way, instead of having lead into typical catharses.

Which is the real innovation of the movie : its timed and measured approach, in its weaving of message & narrative. The point was the police - and the system - would go about the tortures and the salvagings in between typing police reports and talking to people. Far from detached, really, and more unsettlingly intimate, but in ways that does not dissolve into helplessness, but rather closes with a sense of grievance and an upset. Certainly drew reactions from the audience, where I saw it.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks for the comment, anonymous. It's interesting to see the movie with a more impassioned audience. I really felt that the entire real-time style limited the film, but I do not deny the possibilities of its effect especially since the topic it chooses to discuss is one that would instantly draw reactions.