“We were told that musicals are not popular in Japan, and yet from the festival staff, Japanese press and audiences members who watched our first public screening, we got very positive reactions,” Rachel Alejandro, who headlines “Ang Larawan” tells GMA Online in an email, immediately after the musical’s world premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival on Monday, October 30.
It is one of 10 competing films for the Asian Future Film prize.
“The Japanese audience sat through our whole film until the very last credit was shown,” adds Celeste Legaspi, who is one of the film’s producers.
“Ang Larawan” is the film adaptation of “Larawan, The Musical”, a 1997 stage translation of “A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino,” National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin’s three-act play in English published in 1952. It is directed by Loy Arcenas and features music by Ryan Cayabyab and libretto by Rolando Tinio.
“After many years of working on the play, I saw an even deeper perspective of the words and music that is Larawan — from the genius minds of Nick, Rolando, and Ryan — and I resolved that it is our obligation and duty to document these as faithfully as possible using today’s technology through the eyes of vision of Loy,” says Legaspi who worked on both the 199 theater adaptation and the 2017 film translation.
The movie features theater vets Rachel Alejandro and Joanna Ampil as sisters Paula and Candida respectively, struggling after their father, painter Don Lorenzo Marasigan, falls ill and fails to produce art in years.
Shares Alejandro, rehearsals for “Ang Larawan” took one entire year. “It was a painful and difficult process for me and Joanna Ampil. It was not only time consuming but emotionally draining,” says Rachel, adding that she even had to take voice lessons with Ryan Cayabyab’s wife Emmy “to adjust my singing style to make it more suited to the period and my character Paula.”
According to Legaspi, they had to make adjustments in the film as “theater and film are different mediums.” Audiences familiar with the theater production will notice how a couple of songs as well as the sung-thru format were omitted. “The texture of some scenes were re-structured for the film, while some scenes in the play had to be added to the film in order to be better visualized,” Legaspi shared.
“This tale created by National Artist Nick Joaquin, translated by another National Artist Rolando Tinio and set to music by Ryan Cayabyab, will hopefully stir the minds and hearts of young Pinoys, make them consider how our past has led us to where we are, but realize also that we can still (steer) our lives to a future by making wiser choices,” says Alejandro.
“I would be absolutely thrilled if the film made Filipinos very proud to be Filipino and realize that we are capable of creating beautiful music uniquely our own, and movies that go beyond the usual themes of corruption and poverty. Our people have so many stories to tell,” she adds.
“Ang Larawan” will have a second screening at TIFF today, October 31. — LA, GMA News