Heneral Luna is a strong, compelling work of art that doesn’t sugarcoat the horrors of our past. It is a graphic and brutal depiction of what is usually left out in our history books. More than the political maneuvering, bargaining, and in-fighting, it is a film about a fiery general who dared to fight, resist, and serve his country more than anything. This is what makes Heneral Luna an important film.
Set in the backdrop of the Philippine-American war, Heneral Luna begins with a chaotic meeting between Aguinaldo’s cabinet members. Here we see two factions: first, those in favor of revolting against the American colonizers, and the others who see the benefit of being a US colony. This opening scene sets the mood by showcasing the distress brewing within the ranks of fellow Filipinos thereby emphasizing unity as one of the struggles of the Philippines as a nation in general.
Today, more than a hundred years later, Luna’s words: “Mas madali pang pagkasunduin ang langit at lupa kaysa dalawang Pilipino tungkol sa kahit na anong bagay” still rings true.
The film depicts the evolution of change and underlines the halted growth of that which has not changed. That makes Heneral Luna a timely, as it is a timeless, masterpiece.
Giving justice to the titular role is John Arcilla who translates madness, boldness, and brilliance in one character. Arcilla not only owned the role, he embodied it, hence making it unfit for any other actor of this lifetime but him.
In one scene, Luna was shown sitting on top of a hill, holding a medallion given by his mother. The camera pans from a close up to wide to over the top view. His voice can be heard saying, “ang taong may damdamin ay hindi alipin”. It’s one simple yet intricate scene that shows the core of Luna; one that most definitely won’t bury the techincal credits of the film which are equally awe-inspiring as well.
Director Jerrold Tarog succeeds on putting tension in all the right places: the screenplay is a poetic conversation backed by an engaging musical scoring, ensemble acting that transforms emotions past the screen, remarkable cinematography, and well put visual effects.
Overall, Heneral Luna provides a peek, not only of the past, but of the future, too.
Its significance is an eerie reminder that those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.
Through the noise, it speaks to us: from the top of the pyramid, it is just as easy to fall back a few steps as it is to move back up again.