MANILA - Prize winning screenwriter Armando Lao's directorial debut “Biyaheng Lupa” is a perfect example of balancing form and content.
“Biyaheng Lupa” (Soliloquy) are vignettes of wonderful stories focused on each passenger on a bus bound from Manila to the province.
Though every trip ends, each passenger's story doesn't necessarily end as well.
There are many touching scenes in the film like a mute boy (played by Marco Guevarra) who gets off the bus to pay a visit to his dead mother's tomb at the local cemetery in Lopez town, Quezon province.
The scene is rich in drama, as the mute engages in a "conversation" with his departed mother through sign language.
It is also filled with local color, as how the character encounters cattle along the alley, that adds to the film's charisma.
The bus, its passengers, and its conductor are metaphors for life's nuances. Life is filled with departures and destinations.
It is the living symbol of a web of thoughts and emotions about the mundane (but special) existence of men.
However, it would be more colorful if the driver's life story, however seemingly insignificant, is also shown.
He is the navigator of the trip, though many characters could establish how interrelated lives are.
The bumpy road, the long and winding highways, the inertia, the terminal, the stop-over, the bridge, and others are all symbols of life’s journey.
It comes with frustrations, determination, reflection, happiness, friendship, love and even death.
The stories are compelling and relatable. A lawyer (Peping Almojuela) worries about the death of his kin "Junior" and the illness (advanced cancer) of "Emma."
A cheating wife (Jaclyn Jose) orchestrates a meeting with her paramour lest their illicit affair is exposed.
A confused young graduate (Coco Martin) is torn between staying with his protective father and sick mother, or finding a job as far as Legazpi in Bicol province.
An Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) played by Eugene Domingo feels sad about being away from his son but has to go to Oman to work as a female driver.
The stinking bum (Archie Adamos) frets about scrounging enough money to send to his wife back home, while an ex-convict (Mely Soriano) bears grudges against her son who didn’t even bother to pay her a visit in prison.
A salesman (Julio Diaz), who is purposely driven to succeed, has to deal with his cynical brother and his impulsive violent tendencies when confronted with his inner demons. A liberal-minded mother and daughter (Susan Africa and Isabella de Leon, respectively) show how they rose beyond provinciality.
Meanwhile, a gay entrepreneur (Andoy Ranay) suffers humiliation from other passengers; while the bookworm (Angel Aquino) tries to look for a lover in vain.
A hardworking wife and mother (Shamaine Centerena) regrets not marrying her now wealthy former suitor, as she has settled down with a poor but loving rank-and-file employee for a husband.
Finally, a pregnant young lady (Mercedes Cabral) imagines herself giving birth to a squid.
Stream of consciousness as narrative device
Stream of consciousness might have started in literature, particularly in the novel, but it is experimentally employed in this film.
For one, the "auteur" (where the film reflects the director's creative vision) had full control of all the elements in his masterpiece-- from writing the screenplay, to direction, to the minute details in the production.
What goes on in the minds of each character forms little inner conflicts, thereby contributing to the total message: that life is a journey that does not always end tragically.
There are others who cut their journeys short by getting off the road, there are those who get lost on the way (like falling off a ravine or fooling around), while others are reluctant to end their journey.
The stream of thoughts are multi-layered designs from the points of view of the scriptwriter, the filmmaker, the characters and the situations they are in at the moment.
Aside from the film's philosophical and psychological themes, it is easy to label the creative devise of "stream of consciousness" as a way for characters to talk about themselves (soliloquy).
Here, Lao as writer, sets the tone of the film. As director, he lets his actors and actors lend their own voices to his characters--a new world peculiarly in their own familiar terrain.
This time, Lao reverses the usual flow of a film shoot. He dubbed the cast's lines or dialogue prior to the shoot instead of after.
From this, the actors immerse themselves into their characters during the actual shoot by interacting with one another while at the same time reacting to themselves.
Even the scene where characters sing along to the ballad “Kahit Isang Saglit” evokes inner thoughts of each character, who are mostly lonely and are carrying emotional baggage.
“Biyaheng Lupa” seems as an attempt at literary greatness. Report by Boy Villasanta