Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to watch Still Life at Cine Adarna, with my "artist-in-struggle" friend, Joey. We had already planned on watching the movie a month ago, because it's going to be our birth-month, and watching the film would be one of our gifts for ourselves. At first, I thought, we won't be able to watch the movie, because Joey had a sudden attack of "tamaditis" in coming to work that day. Anyway, I asked if he camn go watch the film, an dhe said yes, and so we decided on going to UP.
It was a rainy afternoon. We didn't have our umbrellas with us, and so we had to go, at suungin ang lakas ng ulan, just to watch it. I am not familiar with the grounds in UP (although, I have been at Cine Adarna once last year when I watched Tulad ng Dati, last year's winning entry for Cinemalaya, as well), so we had to find our way.
Anyway, we made it to the movie house, or rather at Cine Adarna...and we watched Still Life.
The film was about this artist, struggling to find meaning, once more in the craft he is pursuing. It starts with a cameo role from John LLoyd Cruz who was interviewing the artist, named James Flores as he was making a profile on an artist. (I think, what he really wants to do is ask for background on what's going on in the mind of an artist, because he is to portray that role for a certain movie) the actor asks, "paano ka ba nagpipinta?" In a non-chalant way, the artist, James threw the question back at him "ikaw paano ka ba umaarte?" John LLoyd just smiled and wasn't able to answer the question.
We are talking here of two abilities, which cannot be justified nor explained in basic, describable terms. Ability--it happens to anyone, anyone who would like to pursue something and be good in it. There are different strategies in doing so, and it's up to a person on how he will find a way through things.
James is a celebrated artist. He has held exhibits of his works already. However, he felt that something is missing. He can't seem to find something that will once again, motivate him and inspire to create. He is good at creating still-life paintings--pictures of different objects that is a representation of a person/people he meets in daily life. There was a painting of stiletto shoe of a woman-with its heel seemed broken--a representation of her mother...a messed-up dinner table, goblets of wine turned over, spilling it's wine contents, unfinished plate of food--a representation of an anniversary celebration gone wrong.
News from his doctor came to him, telling him he is suffering from a certain health problem, that's been causing muscle spasms in the body that makes him numb, sort-of a slow paralysis that can eat his system as time goes by. The dilemma? How is he going to pursue further that one craft he is good at now that his body is taking it away from him? It's bad that he seems unfulfilled already at what he is doing, and the paralysis has just made things worse.
James goes on a hiatus, with the goal of finally making his last piece, before retiring from the craft, before the disorder hit his system full time. He wen to an isolated place somewhere, which has beautiful greeneries, a nice view of the ocean, and other nice sceneries made by nature. Here he meets Emma, a barrio lass with a mission.
Emma rides on a bus going somewhere. Along with her is a baby's rattle or toy. It signifies her longing, for a child she wants to see again. She kisses it and says (as if the toy represents for her child) "isang araw, babalik ako para sayo...pangako yan" (not the exact line from the movie but the same point, anyway)
Emma is brought to the same place, same house where James has gone on an isolation. And here they meet each other. At first, there was a clash of each other's personalities, however, in time, and after sharing each other's stories, they seem to gron fond of each other.
Here you can see the contrast between each other's concerns. James' dilemmas are "art-like", on those things that deal with creating things with meaning, with representation, something on the creative level...the "creative craft". Emma, has disclosed to James about her life--she was a responsible person, and dreams of someday being successful and leave the barrio for something bigger. But things didn't go the way she wants it to be. She got pregnant, and being so, she feels guilty for bringing a child into this world. All because of a woman who made mistakes in her life! She wanted to abort her baby.
However, a kind doctor made Emma look at things in a different perspective. For a time, her baby became her reason for living. Her son became her inspiration and move on with life. But she decided to put the baby into adoption, to the kind doctor, who, for some time, has been having difficulty if having her own child.
This seemed a difficult decision for Emma, but she has to because she wants to give the baby a beautiful future, something that the doctor, along with his doctor-husband can provide.
And the toy-rattle--it was the representation of her baby which she promised to take care, and somday, to goback for him.
Back to James and Emma's adventures. Emma made JAmes look at life in a more positive way. In a conversation, James stressed out, "wala ng point!" But Emma was patient enough to tell her that as long as one lives, everything has a point. With her jolly and simple disposition--of looking at hings in a simple way, appreciating small endeavors that happen in one's life--the happiness of looking at the sea, the sky, the surroundings, and the people you meet along the way, are reason enough to feel life, and feel alive.
"ang dami ko pang gustong gawin, hindi ko pa nagagawa!"
James has finally realized the last painting he wants to draw, however, at the time that he was ready to do it, the paralysis hit him. He has been feeling the spasms and numbness more often, that it has made it difficult for him to draw. This depresses James. But Emma is at her side to help him.
James was about to cut his wrist with a blade (a labatiba, or so, for a barber, or a huge shaving blade, that is), when Emma sees him. "Ito ba ang gusto mong gawin, ito ba? Mas higit ka pa diyan, James" She cries at him.
THe time had come for Emma to leave. Emma tells her not to attempt at suicide ever again. James just smiled. Emma asks if she will still see him, and again, James answers with a silence, and hands her a box. "Andiyan and inspiration ko ha! Itago mo iyang mabuti. Kapag nagkita tayo, puwede mo siyang isauli sa akin!" He tells her.
On the bus, Emma meets an accident, she was rushed into the hospital, and was met by her friend doctor, her husband, with her son, cradled in the doctor's arms...
On the other hand, James is alone at the big house in the isolated place where he was staying. A cruciating spasm hits him, his whole body went numb, suddenly, there was darkness.
The next scene shows James at the hospital, her mother/doctor by her side, telling her. "James, ano bang ginagawa mo, anuman ang problema mo, we can work this out! We can help you!"
James mumbles something and asks, "nasaan si Emma?"
Her mother doctor seemed at a loss. "sinong Emma?"
Mer mother recounted that he was seen by the house's caretaker, drowning in his own blood, a cut on his wrist. He just made a fatal act on himself-a suicide attempt.
It occured to him that it was all just a dream--a dream that made him realize to find meaning in whatever he was doing. There is no need to end his life, and wallow on what he will lose. It's a matter of accepting the fate/destiny laid before him by life, and try to make something out of it. Losing something should not stop us from doing the things we want to achieve. It's about looking for another way, another strategy for us to do it. It's about finding perspective.
James was able to make his last piece, the picture of a woman, Emma, looking behind her back, on her background is the sea with an abandoned lighthouse in the horizon.
James now teaches young kids at painting. At this endeavor, he is able to impart his knowkedge, his skill on his craft, that is considered his life's works-the meaning of his existence-to create art!
The movie reminds me of Mitch Albom's novel, "For One More Day". It as well recounts of how a person's life was saved by a mother who promised her kid to help him in times of trouble. The movie seemed to be an overlapping of time, from a mother who went in her child's dream to fulfill her promise that someday, she will be back to save her child. The dream was a point of communication for both mother and son.
Great filming from Katzki Flores, the director who was able to show art. She presented scenes of objects, which at one point, can make you ask yourself, shot nga ba iyon, o drawing. She was able to bring art in the scene--the picture of a blade in the sink, of the lighthouse in the middle of the sea.
Flores, incorporated Cynthia Alexander's Song in the film, "Comfor in your Strangeness". It has been an effective musical score. Because of the film, the song can now be used as background music, for visual artists/painters who are inspired in doing their craft, with background music. In a way, it helps call out to your muse!
see the film's trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6Mnp3dOToU