Former music and events producer turned director Diane Ventura’s critically acclaimed debut feature Mulat finally hits the theaters on November 2. The movie bagged Best Director for Global Feature for Ventura, while Jake Cuenca took home Best Actor at the International Film Festival Manhattan 2015. The film further won Best Narrative Feature at the World Cinema Festival in Brazil, where Cuenca once again snagged Best Actor.
Mulat is a very unique film in that a “film plot” in its traditional sense is thrown out the window. Ventura artistically uses time jumps, shifting perspectives, and dream sequences juxtaposed with spills from the subconscious. What is in Mulat, if anything, is a jagged, broken roadmap.
In the movie, Sam (Loren Burgos) engaged to be married to Vince (Ryan Eigenmann), who has time and again shown his disdain for marital proceedings and, transitively, his fiancée. The film opens with them quarreling during a car ride, an argument which escalates into frenzied verbal volleying that would later be interrupted by their collision with a stray motorcyclist. The crash would ironically set the dream-riddled wheels in motion, and the viewer would be taken to flashbacks, flash-forwards, and alternate realities in “multiverse” fashion.
In one sequence, the crash would appear to be a mere bout of daydreaming, with the doggedly submissive Sam suddenly shifting gears and growing a pair, telling the abusive Vince, “I’m not wasting another second of my life with you.” The rest of the film would be a rich montage of alternating worlds between Sam’s strained engagement with Vince, and her redemption in the hands of a new love in the person of Jake (Jake Cuenca).
The mostly-English screenplay by Ventura is flirty-conversational, and its occasional forays into psychoanalysis flow freely, unencumbered by the unwieldy gravity psych concerns usually lends to talkies.
The casting is spot on, and the performances splittingly human. Burgos as Sam is way north of eye-candy, her alternating ascent-descent into joy-madness contained but effective; Eigenmann’s Vince is doused with an effortless a-hole cool, a volcano perpetually teetering on the edge of eruption; and Cuenca’s Jake is both a charmer and a dramatic powerhouse.
The support cast are ace, as well, with Logan (Logan Goodchild) and Cathy (Candy Pangilinan) a revelation as a truth-espousing comical couple, and of course, every frame with the sublime Madeleine Nicolas in it (as Sam’s mom) is a frame worth pouring over.
Alfred Asuncion’s secure camera work shines best in its nuanced differentiation across varying timelines and perspectives, along with his subtle coloring and tasteful editing alongside John Wong. Tengal’s understated score and sound design also lend Mulat some much-needed breathing space, functioning more as atmospherics rather than as pushy accents, as other psychological vehicles are wont to do.
Ventura’s Mulat certainly isn’t the first movie to offer up an atypical rendering of time, of causality, of consequence; from Kurosawa to Tarantino to pre-Batman Nolan, the modern auteur has always toyed with cinematic storytelling in one form or another. But what it promises is a more pedestrian (but by no means simpler) story arc to ferry it along: the meandering course of a love affair, the ways we deal with heartbreak, the lenses through which we view our hopes and dreams.
In the more-than-able hands of Ventura and her team, the fractured beauty that is Mulat ceases to be a difficult structural pill; it becomes a welcome change of scene, even to the most unsuspecting among us.
Mulat (Awaken) comes with a bonus opening feature short film The Rapist, also directed by Diane Ventura.