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by  Zymon Arvindale R. Dykee

When death arrives in one’s life, sorrow follows for his loved ones. While kindled candles, anthuriums and bereaving relatives and friends surround his casket, a group of people on the outskirts of town rejoices for his death is a moment of fortune.

“Purgatoryo” narrates the death of Ilyong (Chrome Cosio), a robber recently shot by police. His corpse is found bathing in blood inside a sack by policeman Jojo (Arnold Reyes), who carries him to the funeral house operated by the homosexual Violet (Bernardo Bernardo). Once embalmed, he is placed inside a white coffin and a wake is held. While Violet’s team crows about earning money, his remains embark on a crooked path.

Roderick Cabrido’s film shines the spotlight on the country’s funeral traditions. Inside the stale, dim room of the funeral parlor, Dyograd (Jess Mendoza) and On-On (Kristoffer King) position Ilyong’s body on the metal table. Through the corpse’s point of view, they tastefully showcase the art of embalming—from incising the torso and removing the organs to inserting the formaldehyde-filled tube and weaving the body. The scene not only gives the audience an impression as the cadaver being embalmed while lying supine; it also serves as an attestation to the masterpiece’s creative minds. Moreover, the movie exemplifies the typical Filipino observances for the dead by setting the funeral in a house located in a slum alley, and outside are plastic tables and chairs where people convene to play cards, smoke and inebriate throughout the night.

Yet what seems to be the film’s core is its laudable and flawless cinematography. Dyograd’s manifestation of his libidinal surge serves as an exemplary instance. As silence engulfs the same embalming room, he passionately copulates with a female corpse. The camera matches the stillness of the scene; and as the act of necrophilia sustains, it slowly steers backwards and intangibly passes the room’s walls. The movie also associates several scenes with various shades and hues—further setting the tone.

To convey its message, the film incorporates the theory of purgatory. Written in the earliest scriptures of Christianity, the belief asserts that impure souls must remain in the intermediate state after death to cleanse themselves before entering heaven. The movie parallels the notion—it functions as a macrocosm of lost individuals struggling for their redemption. Behind the character’s schemes are stories waiting to be unraveled. Inside his pink quarters, the young-obsessed Violet takes off his wig, rests unclad and weeps in the quiet while staring at the framed picture of his father. Because of impoverishment, On-On is unable to return to his family in the province—making him rely on whispering to cadavers for luck, and gambling for consolation. Dyograd aspires to break from sexual frustration and become a married and loyal man; he remains scorned, however, because of his lewd remarks. Clinging to earthly desires, their souls have obliviously undergone a figurative passing—causing their ache for purification.

“Purgatoryo”, in its wholeness, is a visual elegy of the wicked in unrest. With nifty filming to create coherence alongside its informality, it unveils the harsh realities that smother individuals for them to exist as rotten cadavers and wandering souls.


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