Heneral Luna is a powerful film. It has earned praise and applause from those who have watched it. But, It has also earned criticism, at least I saw one, because of its unintended effect of favoring martial rule over democratic and libertarian ideals. Then again one must remember the story took place during the Philippine Revolution and the infancy of the Philippine Republic, in particular during the Philippine American War. And despite such criticisms the film is still receives acclaim and applause. More importantly it reminds us the same treachery, incompetence, and corruption that doomed the First Philippine Republic is still eating away at ours.
The film succeeds in telling a powerful story because of efforts of the ensemble performance of the actors, directors, writers, producers, and everyone involved. The story main source come from the work of Vivencio Jose’s THE RISE AND FALL OF ANTONIO LUNA and Nick Joaquin’s iconoclastic work A QUESTION OF HEROES. It is quite evident, if you had read both works previously. The film mixes historical account, gossip and cinematic license to come up with a non-boring account of Luna’s life. A mixture of drama and anecdotal comedy propels the movie along quite nicely to its tragic climax – the assassination, that can only be appreciated on the silver screen.
The film also have homage to a number of historical tidbits, including one a famous painting by Luna’s brother Juan. Unfortunately and probably in the cause of brevity one aspect of Luna’s life was not looked at, Luna the Scientist and his military studies. I often wonder aside from the infamous Luna temper was his training and profession as a scientist made him more impatient and stressed with the politics and bureaucratic malaise of the Malolos Republic?
It would be easy to understand the affinity of the audience to the story of Luna. Just looking at what has happened after independence the same tragedy is happening. The National Tragedy that is reinforced in the film is that two of our heroes and founding fathers, Bonifacio and Luna, were butchered by Filipinos, with the approval of the Malolos Republic leadership.
The film is said to be part of a trilogy: the first being the story of Luna; the second being the story of Gregorio del Pilar; and the third being that of Manuel Quezon. If you look at it carefully it is though one story: It would be the story of Emilio Aguinaldo and the Philippine Republic. All three stories point to three tragic episodes: The Defeat and Fall of the Malolos Republic after Luna; The Capture of Aguinaldo after the fall of Del Pilar; And the Electoral Defeat of Aquinaldo before Quezon at the Commonwealth Election, where the ghosts of Luna and Bonifacio came back to haunt Aguinaldo. The next two films should be worth watching.
Indeed it is a powerful film: It is a powerful story that our Forefathers in the Propaganda Movement would be proud because it moves people to think and hopefully to act.
A question for my students who was Luna the scientist?