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Julio Madiaga, a simple fisherman from the province, travels to Manila to find Ligaya, the woman he loves, after she went away with a mysterious woman promising a better future in the City. When he arrives, he becomes immersed in the city lifestyle and gets involved with its inhabitants experiencing extreme poverty, hard luck, and the overbearing need to grind for daily sustention. While Julio relentlessly searches for Ligaya, the city changes him little by little, becoming like an animal doomed to live only for survival in a wild jungle with no way out.Written by
Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag - A film that Triumphs in Art and Social Significance
ABOUT: Julio Madiaga, a simple fisherman from the province (as played by Rafael "Bembol" Roco, Jr. in his first leading role) goes on a journey to find Ligaya (Hilda Koronel), the woman he loves, after she went away with a mysterious woman promising a better future in Manila. When he arrives, he becomes immersed in the city lifestyle and gets involved with its inhabitants experiencing extreme poverty, hard luck, and the daily pressure to grind for sustainment. While Julio relentlessly searches on for Ligaya, the city changes him little by little, becoming like an animal in a wild jungle that lives only for survival.
REVIEW: Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila: In the Claws of Light), a film by the late great national artist, Lino Brocka, from the screenplay of Clodualdo Del Mundo Jr. (adapted from the serialized novel of Edgardo M. Reyes), is an examination of the dark side of urban life in Manila, Philippines. Brocka tackles the social issue of extreme poverty and its effects on the people experiencing it at the time.
The movie speaks about the harsh truth about Manila especially for the underprivileged that life in the city is pleasurable but only if you meet the high cost and that sometime you even have to pay more because what you can give is not enough. In end you may have to lose so much only to gain so little in value. Such is the fate of Julio Madiaga (main character) and basically every character in the story. He goes on a nightmarish journey to find his love one, Ligaya only to experience things go from bad to worse.
A ton of credit should be given to the casting and the performance of Rocco as Julio Madiaga. We go with him and we see everything happening through his eyes and we feel the same way that he does. He was able to portray convincingly a character that changes from being pure to being tainted as the film progresses. The screenplay also gave hand in establishing a strong connection between the viewer and the main character specifically with the use of key monologues that made us aware of his intentions.
Other characters aside from Julio Madiaga are well written and cast also, such as Julio's missing love one, Ligaya, a perfect example of Filipina beauty, Pol, as played by Tommy Abuel, his ever reliable friend, and the elusive Mrs. Cruz, as played by Juling Bagabaldo, whom he has a growing hatred for taking away Ligaya. Every character proves to be integral to the events presented in the film. No one seems out of place, not for a second.
Apart from the commendable writing, acting and casting, it is the direction by Lino Brocka that brought these aspects together film. His signature realism paired with his undeniable artistic talent behind the camera is what the material needed to produce an exceptionally well made film.
Though it has been over 40 years since the movie premiered, the social commentary it contains continues to be relevant up to know. This is coming from a citizen living in the said city. The underprivileged people in city at present are still affected by poverty among other social illness as it was then. Sure, it will make a fine exhibit for retrospection when discussing the era when Philippines was in martial law but more than that, because of what the film achieves both in art and social significance, it will continue to be watched by future generations.
FINAL WORD: With an flinching portrayal of what is wrong in the society at same time being able to showcase it in cinematic fashion, -Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila- In the Claws of Light) proves its triumph in film making. Only a few films and even less in Philippine Cinema have put together social significance together with art and produce a very satisfying experience as this film. With the recent restoration, the film can be seen in its grandest form and hopefully it will continue to be influential in the years to come. The film is highly recommended. Go see it. You can likely catch it in cinemas in the Philippines or as I have read, the Criterion Collection is planning to release the film in DVD/ Blu-ray within this year, so grab a copy when it becomes available.
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