Mixed results for Dos Palmas docu-dramaBy Nestor U. Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
IT was with upbeat expectations that we watched “Captive” recently. Brillante Mendoza, Isabelle Huppert, the Dos Palmas kidnapping—how great if they would all come together and “work!” Several hours later, we left the theater glad that we had seen the film—but, with decidedly mixed emotions.
On the plus side, the docu-drama was made acutely believable by its in-your-face, you-are-there camerawork. After a while, however, all that giddy, frenetic action got to be too distracting—and eventually predictable.
The production’s recollection of the events surrounding the abduction-for-ransom case was also too technical to elicit an empathetic reaction from viewers.
We pitied the victims, but didn’t know enough about them to feel for them as individuals. As for the kidnappers, they were even less individually limned, so they came off as even more obdurately difficult to figure out.
Happily, the film’s second half took on a more personal coloration that went into personal anecdotes and back stories. We appreciated the fact that a famous actress like Huppert could selflessly deglamorize herself to believably portray an “ordinary” French volunteer who had haplessly found herself caught in the crossfire of a larger political and ideational conflict, from which it took her over a year to finally survive, and stumble, blinkingly, back into the light.
Even better, the film effected an instructive interaction between her and the youngest member of the ragtag group of rebels that had abducted her. He was little older than a boy, but he could be hard as nails—yet, she was still able to get through to his softer, more vulnerable side.
—Until she wandered dreamily off one day, and he tersely brought her back to reality with his deadly weapon’s blunt persuasiveness!
We don’t know how many of the movie’s “interaction” scenes were based on actual events, or were thought up to vivify the drama’s diverse themes and insights. Indeed, some of them looked too good to be true. Most of the time, however, we ended up accepting them, because the themes they brought out were valid.
Less successfully, “Captive” tried to integrate the dramatic portrayals of local stars into the warp and woof of its docu-drama, but the well-known luminaries’ exceptional looks and scented personas made the attempt come off as efforted and ungainly, for the most part. Given Huppert’s impressive act of artistic self-abnegation, the bad fit in the case of the movie’s Filipino stars was all the more regrettable.
All told, however, “Captive” has managed to make filmic sense out of the kidnap victims’ unendurably long ordeal, clarifying at least some of its contentious issues, and ultimately paying tribute to the amazing resiliency of the human spirit.
Given the many side stories and relationships involved, that’s a commendable feat in itself. It’s also Mendoza’s first foray into the docu-drama film mode. —When comes such another?
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