Originally Published January 6, 2016
Cornejo’s Apocalypse Child was never the story about finding or clarifying one’s identity as the QCinema’s jury citation or the gimmick of the film would suggest. Almost everyone in the film is well aware of their own truths (almost ‘absolute’ truths). But the film could be read in two ways: first, as a story of people struggling with the truths they know, making amends with it on their way to self-liberation; or, second, a tale of two Oedipi who have murdered their fathers and make their mothers their wives. As far as the signifiers took me, I went for the latter.
Rich (RK Bagatsing) was the first real Oedipus. What’s interesting in the film was how Rich also became King Laius himself: turned into a figure of authority and by the end affirmed his disposition as something he learned (as he learned so much, he said) from his dead father. This brings us to our second Oedipus, Ford, who is a basic Oedipus image, so basic he’s a bore and didn’t require much of a reading to be understood (though they tried to make him as interesting as they could, with their Apocalypse Now! gimmick). Ford is so easy to read for someone who’s supposed to have identity issues.
To be fair with Sophocles, the two aren’t his Oedipus: Sophocles’ Oedipus blinded himself out of guilt and faced the sphinx to solve a riddle, while Rich and Ford made amends with their guilt by accepting and affirming their respective father’s torments. The two are Oedipi straight out of Freud’s notes.
Freud used Oedipus to further his research on unlocking the human mind via human sexuality, like a key to unlock the key to unlock Pandora’s Box. This is where Freud was mostly misunderstood that he’s just all about sex, or dropping the name Freud equates to talking about sex. Freud talks about the human mind, with sex and sexuality as his “narrative device”. Apocalypse Child makes use of the same narrative device to unlock each of the two Oedipus.
One would notice the series of sex scenes and sexual tensions which was spread throughout the film, in the same fashion on how more recent European films came to use sex scenes as a narrative device and not just mere spectacle, these scenes became the key to RK and Ford: or let’s say that the film only talks when there’s sex or sexual tensions. Here is where Apocalypse Child has ultimately succeeded: the reintroduction (and re-imagination) of sex and sexuality as a discourse in a Filipino film.
Nothing is ground-breaking or new about the film and its approach, but the most interesting part of it and also of its reception is how it confirmed Foucault’s take on the deployment of sexuality as:
…a new distribution of pleasures, discourses, truths, and powers; it has to be seen as the self-affirmation of one class rather than the enslavement of another: a defense, a protection, a strengthening, and an exaltation that were eventually extended to others- at the cost of different transformations-as a means of social control and political subjugation. (Part 4 – Chapter 4; The History of Sexuality Volume 1: An Introduction).
Apocalypse Child maybe just another affirmation of one class’ agenda: like a typical liberal call for “sexual open-mindedness”, while not really intending to repress the other, it pushed its device, justify its cause in the name of nature, shove it to your throat and would say “you should do this too”, thinking that your life and freedom depended on it.
A lot of the film’s discursive potential was lost on the insistence of the narrative-discursive device only rather of the supposed-discourse that it should have brought with it. What should be revelatory became mere masturbatory. Sure, there’s a lot of “hurt” in this, if you must insist, but isn’t this where most liberals get their pleasure? Via Sado-Masochism?
I can’t take my mind off Rich, who, by the end of the film, sounds a bit like those Marcos Revivalists on facebook (or worse, like those Neo-Fascists).
* I’m not sure whether Oedipi is actually a word, but it’s sure to sound a lot cuter than Oedipuses.