‘Seklusyon’ Review: Unsubtle provocation
Subtlety isn’t a virtue of Erik Matti’s Seklusyon.
Doubt and suspicion
In fact, the film isn’t much for virtues. It flaunts gloom and bleakness, draping faith and morality with doubt and suspicion. It is brash and blunt, delivering its criticism against blind fanaticism through religious imagery that serves as the core of its horror. (READ: MMFF 2016: In Erik Matti's 'Seklusyon,' terror comes for you – slowly)
It is also immensely intriguing.
Set in post-war Philippines where religion becomes a cornerstone for elusive hope, Seklusyon centers on Miguel (Ronnie Alonte), a deacon who is set for a week-long isolation in a remote retreat house before being ordained into a priest.
While he and other deacons are struggling to wrestle with their personal demons, Anghela (Rhed Bustamante), a girl with miraculous powers, is sent by the Church to live with them, resulting in stranger things happening further into their seclusion. Another priest (Neil Ryan Sese) starts to investigate the identity of Anghela, discovering along the way horrifying truths that are beginning to envelope his precious vocation.
Matti hatches a world that is seductively ominous.
Cinematographer Neil Derrick Bion flirts with light and shadow, blanketing the outside world with abundant sunlight and draping the interiors of the retreat house with haunting darkness. Seklusyon is a curiously elegant film, one that establishes mood and atmosphere to elevate dread. It climaxes into an audacious display of clever provocation.
It isn’t a perfect film, quite far from it.
Alonte is quite a letdown, especially since he is playing a central character whose internal turmoil is integral to the film’s bold rhetoric. Anton Santamaria’s script is a little bit too obtuse in its effort to aggravate discourse. It is also paced awkwardly, forcing its languid start to hurriedly rush towards a too abrupt end.
More than just religion
However, the film still manages to raise the right questions, leaving a potent impression that all there is more to the film’s brazen simplicity than meets the eye.
Seklusyon can’t just be about religion. That’s too obvious. The Church is too easy a subject to chastise. It isn’t just religion that produces false prophets and blind idolatry, especially in this secular age when the church no longer has the monopoly to miracles and easy fixes. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.