Wilted Passion

Whip Me Harder

We can’t argue that Room 213 is to some extent, a well photographed film. The visual structure is striking; the color milieu is gleaming and the backdrop of Old Manila is as well gorgeous. How I wish visual style and aesthetics is the only thing perceived in films to make it the leading light. On the other hand, the story structure is unremarkable. Although the film resorted to use some noir elements, justifying the nonlinearity and scene recurrences. But it’s more of concealment of a frail narrative.

The Architect (Allen Dizon) has grown cold and has been overtly suspicious of his wife, The Photographer (Gwen Garci). It is a result of an adulterous act the wife committed. On their first decade as a married couple, a recent project was assigned to The Architect in an abandoned building in Manila. The Architect is engrossed with the confinements of the building and has formed a plan. The recurring events made its way to acquaint us to two more characters: The Devotee (Maricar dela Fuente) a necrophiliac and The Accomplice (Tyron Perez) a seemingly ordinary guy.

The erotic part is on the film’s manipulation of the characters, pairing them off with each other. The Architect and The Photographer engaged themselves in sadomasochism. Despite being a couple, it still brings about some voyeuristic tinges and dream fantasies. Glamour Photography is one passion of The Photographer. The Devotee as her subject, the secret liaison at first leads to a lesbian intimacy. The Accomplice is also entangled in a simulated threesome act between the two women. The eroticism is primarily signified by the abandoned building. The old building heightened the palpable dormancy in passion.

The exploration of the theme is a flourishing subject matter. I do commend the film for not appearing comical with all those ropes tied around, hanging upside down and characters leaping into cross gender role-play. But does it mean that all couples are subjected to this kind of activity when passion is growing cold? Or is the film literal? The answer might be plausible in the context of eroticism and film. Eroticism in Room 213 has dissolved the rational world but it’s ephemeral; thus transcending of pain is subjective. On the contrary, a film has a logical amalgamation of eroticism and film writing. Or probably the film is adequate to show more of its artistic qualities visually. Obviously, Sicat love to astonish and bemuse the audience with obscure sexual adventurism, regardless of whether real people actually do it or not. It has become an aesthetic all its own.

The narrative, especially the use of dialogue might be indicted of mere rhetorical frippery. One good case is the voice-over narration. Aren’t The Photographer’s actions exactly those which she is narrating? Some scenes are stylish, but they lack urgency. At times, it looks like it just fills up the cracks. The repetitive schemes must have a purported purpose. But I have to say that its premise and closure have strong points. In the end it becomes a reflection of our repressed sensibilities. Freedom from sex is I think true liberation.

Room 213 has promising technical expertise to show off (except for the uneven film ratio). It is not surprising to know that the director Keith Sicat is also a painter and a photographer for profession. There are lots of details that I admire in the film. I have noticed that the actors wear bizarre outfits and it is alluring. The walls are painted with eye-catching illustrations and I bet it is the work of Sicat. The musical scoring purported to use kundiman, ethnic/tribal accompaniments, and the western style of music is exquisite. But I have doubts with its narrative. It seems that at one point, the story is lacking and needs more expansion. It must also level with how technically proficient the film is. But if you will ask me, is the film erotic? My answer is, not quite. Or let’s say is the depiction of eroticism thought provoking? Yes, given that the building was there.

Charlie Koon's Rating:

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