For most people, the prospect of watching another biopic about a saint is not appealing at all, as sometimes, biopics can be your run of the mill, typical paint by numbers biopic. However, “Ignacio de Loyola”, a biopic on St. Ignatius of Loyola, whose feast day was just celebrated a few days ago, has now entered my list of biopics that I will watch again, and maybe, even get the DVD.
Last year, many Filipino film enthusiasts welcomed “Heneral Luna”, a biopic on General Antonio Luna, with open arms, and fought for it to remain in local cinemas for as longs as possible.
For many, “Heneral Luna” was a fresh breath of air in the local film scene, especially in the midst of bigger budget local films that, more often than not, feature the latest local love team. However, here was a film that dared to be different, and Filipino audiences welcomed it so much, that they have managed to generate enough funds to create a sequel, which will center on the young hero of Tirad Pass, Gregorio del Pilar.
“Ignacio”, aside from being a welcome respite to the usual movie fare, although not altogether perfect, has pushed the envelope, as it was shot in four provinces in Spain, and utilized a mixed cast and production crew of Filipinos and Spaniards. It was also screened at the Vatican on June 14, 2016, more than a month before its release in Filipino cinemas on July 27,2016.
The film was produced by Jesuit Communications (JesCom), and starred Andreas Munoz as the titular Inigo de Loyola. The film’s story and screenplay was written by Paolo Dy, who directed it alongside his wife, Cathy Azanza-Dy.
They also were able to get one of the Philippines’ best musicians and composers, Ryan Cayabyab, to create the score of the film, which was, in a word, phenomenal.
“Ignacio” is definitely not your typical paint by numbers biopic, as it concentrated mostly on Inigo’s conversion from being a soldier who lived for glory and fame, to becoming a soldier of God, without it being too preachy or too sentimental, without losing the essence of the man, or his teachings.
Just like any other MARVEL or DC superhero film, the film is rife with Easter Eggs that will sound very familiar for those who have either grown up in or attended a Jesuit school at some point or another. These include phrases and words such as discernment, and the Spiritual Exercises, among others.
And just like a superhero film, or the recent hit Broadway play, “Hamilton”, the film doesn’t gloss over his faults at all, and shows a man willing to die for what he truly believes in.
A lot of the scenes in the film were wonderfully shot, such as the shots of the night sky peppered with white glowing stars, and the tranquility of the trees and the pristine waters of the lake in the cave that Inigo would retreat in solitude to.
The scene with the Child Jesus talking to Inigo as he bathed in the lake or river, as if coming out from a baptism, was touching, and was an interesting scene, especially as it paralleled an earlier scene in the film in which Inigo tried to and succeeded to talk to a woman in a local tavern about Jesus, while his relatives were trying to dissuade him from his sudden desire to go on a pilgrimage to go to Jerusalem.
However, the film is not perfect, and sometimes, the lack of funds would show itself.
The exposition of characters at the beginning of the film was a little bit messy, and I sometimes got confused as to how some characters were related to Inigo. At times, I also felt that the sound editing was a little bit off, as sometimes the voices did not seem to sync with the movement of the actor’s mouth. Also, sometimes, I got thrown off with the accents, as sometimes, it changed from English spoken with a Spanish accent, to another accent for a split second.
The battle of Pamplona, although it did manage to show audiences what it wanted to show, was a little bit too ambitious of an undertaking as well.
However, that dreamscape battle sequence with Inigo battling his own inner demons, quite literally, was amazing, and that “Suscipe” track, with the location it was filmed at, and the effects, turned it into a terrifying battle that ended with the good soldier triumphant over his enemy.
Overall, the film is something that I encourage all Filipinos to watch, as it is something that is different from the usual local movie fare, and isn’t too bogged down by its religious subject and over sentimentality.
The musical score is great, the story is good, the acting, and in particular, Andreas Munoz’s acting, is definitely something to watch for.
In the end, films like “Heneral Luna” and “Ignacio de Loyola” proved that local cinema is thriving, with artists, producers, scriptwriters and directors who are willing to take a chance on changing and pushing the envelope of Philippine cinema, and to broaden its scope.