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Film 299 Post

F299: Research Update #3

The next few research updates are my analyses and reflections on some of the Philippine films I have watched so far involving the violent female. Currently, I am subscribed to the ABS-CBN film restoration efforts, and I have signed up to watch some digitally restored Ricky Lee Films. I have also shortlisted some other films from other platforms such as Netflix, iFlix, and iWant TFC that I will be watching in the next few weeks.

  • Corazon, ang unang aswang
  • Minsan lang kitang iibigin
  • Maria
  • Nasaan ka man
  • Patayin sa sindak si Barbara
  • Aishite Imasu 1941: Mahal Kita

ANALYSIS: Corazon, Ang Unang Aswang

Corazon: Ang Unang Aswang is a 2012 thriller film directed by Richard Somes, starring Erich Gonzales and Derek Ramsay. Rather than complying to typical horror/thriller stereotypes, the film focused on the love story of Corazon (Gonzales) and her husband, Daniel (Ramsay), and complemented this with elements of folklore, mob mentality, and remnants of war.

Corazon and female objectification

  • Corazon was a village beauty, and her beauty surpassed those of all the women in the village. She was also married to Daniel, the village “alpha”, who is the strongest and most leader-like among all the men.
  • Instead of highlighting her beauty and physicality through the male gaze, the film made her an object of ridicule and jealousy by the other women’s gazes. Orphaned by her mother at a young age, the village women considered her as impure because they gossiped that her mother used to “sell her body” to the Japanese soldiers during the war.
  • The village women, in their insecurities, also attacked her pride and looked down on her because in the five years of her marriage to Daniel, she was unable to bear him a child. The film highlighted the traditional burden of childbearing imposed on a woman, most especially in the old Filipino culture. Corazon’s body might not have been fetishizingly objectified, but it was nonetheless objectified as a vessel of a child.

The female and religion as mystical elements

  • Unable to bear a child, Corazon was “referred” by her manghihilot to a “mysterious” woman named Herminia, who is sought out for her miracles.
  • Herminia was a typical albularyo. She also mentioned that she was a religious person, who had devotions to saints and the Virgin Mary. However, the film presented her religious practices as that of “black magic”. She was portrayed as an element of evil, even though the only help she gave Corazon was to lend her a statue of San Gerardo and instruct her to start a devotion to the patron saint of pregnant women.
  • The typical religious practices, once done by women, was presented as mystical and of dark nature. They were shown as unconventional and even as opposed to the good brought about by the Catholic faith.
  • Here, the tone of the film showed both Herminia and Corazon as believers of unknown rituals that are supposedly far from what the church teaches.
  • Corazon travelled to the hill and practiced her devotion to San Gerardo in isolation for weeks. She was shown suffering intensely in her devotion, while Daniel was frustratedly waiting for her to return.
  • Corazon’s sacrifice was given as much importance as Daniel’s, even though Daniel technically did nothing but wait. 
  • The unnecessary intensity of the devotion also highlighted how much suffering and commitment a woman must be able to give in order to fulfill her purpose of bearing a child. Without a child, her life is meaningless.
  • This is in line with Laura Mulvey’s point that a woman is “nothing but a signifier of the male “other” in a patriarchal culture, where her role is to fulfill his desires, obsessions and fantasies.”

The beginnings of a violent female

  • After her devotion, Corazon became pregnant, only to eventually give birth to a stillborn child. The midwife, who delivered the child, looked at it as if it were a monster. She shook and refused to show Corazon her baby, even as Corazon insisted. The midwife also showed fear in front of Corazon, as if she were also a monster because she gave birth to a monster. Corazon held her dead baby lovingly, at the disgust of the midwife.
  • The film showed Corazon further as a woman unable to accept her grief. She paraded her dead baby in the village, hurting anyone who dared to mock or “hurt” her child. She also cursed Christianity, the religion who she said gave her false hope.
  • One villager said “Agawan mo ng bata ang babae, magiging demonyo siya”. This marks the beginning of the film’s attempt to demonize a childless woman.
  • In a cry of despair and grief, Corazon ate her own child after cursing everyone and everything that wronged her. The film explained through a parallelism with a dog that the mother dog ate its dead puppy in an attempt to bring it back to her body. This is a cruel and sickening act done by an animal and, later on Corazon. This puts Corazon as an image of a new animal, in her newfound monstrosity.
  • Corazon also began stealing, killing, and eating some of the village children as an act of war and revenge. Here, the picture of a violent female is rooted in her inability to bear a child—her supposedly main purpose in life.
  • Laura Mulvey mentions in her essay that a woman’s purpose, once fulfilled, puts her meaning into an end. She is now meaningless and is left only as a memory in the world. Corazon bore a child, but the child was dead. So Corazon, meaningless in the first place, is further left with a life of meaninglessness, as she is purposeless.

Male response to the violent female

  • The male villagers eventually began hunting down Corazon because they speculated that she did not disappear because she was dead. They intended to kill her, the monstrous feminine who is now fully demonic.
  • As Mulvey said, when the male is reminded of the castration anxiety by the woman, he escapes by:
    • Investigating and trying to demystify the woman, and devaluating and punishing her
      • The women in the village devalued Corazon and ridiculed her for her inability to bear a child.
      • The men also mocked Corazon and talked about her barrenness.
    • He forces a change in her, in a battle of strength and sanity,  ultimately trying to defeat and destroy her
      • The men, unable to demystify Corazon, labelled her as a monster and tried to destroy her by means of force.
      • They searched the forests, high and low, with their knives, guns, and torches.
      • Daniel, Corazon’s husband, on the other hand, searched for her because he longed to be with her because he was “in love with her”.
    • If unsuccessful, he substitutes her for another object of his fetish, or turns her into a fetish so that she becomes an object of lust, and not anxiety.
      • When Daniel finally found Corazon, Corazon said that she was beyond saving. Daniel responds by saying that he will love her and choose to be with her despite everything.
      • At this point, the male failed to contain the female, so he chose to convert her, in all of her monstrosity, into his fetish. Her violence becomes part of what he loves, because he chose to commit to her out of his “love” for her.

Conclusion

  • Throughout the film, Corazon was never the subject. The film was all about Daniel’s love for her and how good of a husband he supposedly is.
  • The female was shown at the peak of her violence, but the film refused to dwell on and tackle her grief. She was highlighted as her downfall to darkness, instead of being portrayed as a grieving mother.
  • The film used all the characters harming her from the beginning to burden her to the point of insanity, which she willingly embraced. She was shown as weak in the face of anger, because she is unable to handle the sorrow brought about by her inability to fulfill her “purpose”, which is childbearing.

The film ended with the quote from one of the village men saying,

“Marahil ay mas payapa at maligaya silang namumuhay sa piling ng isa’t isa, malayo sa mapagpula at mapanghusgang isipan at dila. Malayang nagmamahalan ng walang humahadlang o nakikialam. ‘Marahil ang digmaan ang sumira sa aming paniniwala sa tao bilang tao, o marahil ang takot sa aming puso ang nagbigay daan upang magkaroon ng halimaw.”

The film, here confessed that the true demons were the people. They were the ones who created monsters among themselves and they caused a monster to be born in Corazon. However, contrary to this ending statement, the film failed to show this “moral lesson” because it pointed and channeled all the monstrosity at Corazon. It was a story, focused on the love of a man to his wife. She, in her purposeless female body, embraced violence and insanity upon being unable to contain all the people’s torturing gazes and words. The people were the real monsters, but how come it is the female who was portrayed so? How come the people were victimized but the female was shown to be the predator? And how come, in all her suffering and pain, the female’s salvation came to her only when her man chose to be with her? Why is this story released without question for the audience to consume? 

Deeper analysis on female portrayals must really be practiced in order to produce more films that explore femininity rather than condemn it.