MANILA, Philippines – Despite being snubbed at the initial MMFF screening, Ang Larawan finally made it to this year’s Magic 8. The movie adaptation also received a unanimous A rating from the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB).
Directed by Loy Arcenas, Ang Larawan tells the story of sisters Paula (Rachel Alejandro) and Candida (Joanna Ampil) who find themselves struggling financially after their father, high-profile painter Don Lorenzo Marasigan, fell ill and stopped producing art.
What seemed to be his last work, a self-portrait titled, “The Artist and His Muse”, captured the attention of socialites and art critics, leaving the sisters torn between selling and keeping the said painting. (READ: 5 reasons to watch ‘Ang Larawan’ on Christmas Day)
1. Ang Larawan is a movie adaptation of Larawan, The Musical,. The movie is a stage translation of Nick Joaquin’s A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, a 3-act play first published in the 1950s. The original staging features music by Ryan Cayabyab and libretto by Rolando Tinio.
“Still maintaining the integrity of the work of Rolando Tinio is the biggest challenge,” said Celeste Legaspi, as she explained that the material had to be edited to fit into the two-hour movie running time.
“Somehow we found a way na we could jump from one moment to the next… We wanted to document the work of Rolando Tinio – that’s our number one objective. We want the people, especially the young Filipinos, to hear his words and fall in love with his words. We’re very happy that we have the film that does that.” (Rappler Live Jam: Cast of ‘Ang Larawan’)
2. Ang Larawan took almost 5 years to make. According to Celeste, they started the preparations for the movie in 2012. It took them almost 5 years to complete the entire movie, from castings, rehearsals, filming, and post-production.
It was an ambitious project and they willingly took the risk. No matter how long or expensive it was, the cast and producers gave everything they could for the sake of creating a masterpiece. (READ: Joanna Ampil admits almost quitting ‘Ang Larawan’ movie)
“That’s the gamble we took. Sabi namin, ‘We really believe in this material and we will take this gamble.’ ‘Di kami magpapa-sway and follow other usual musical moments na kailangan may sweeping na ganito. No. Our focus is the material. Contra mundum kami. Matigas ang ulo,” she said.
(That’s the gamble we took. We said, “We really believe in this material and we will take this gamble. We did not allow anyone to sway us and follow the usual musical moments that need some kind of sweeping. No. Our focus is the material. We were contra mundum. We were bullheaded about it.)
“Ang aming (Our) idea was we’re gonna do this and we’re gonna do this in the most excellent way we know how. We will take as long as we need to make it, in the most excellent way, and we will just believe that the audience will like it because it’s excellent.”
3. Ang Larawan first premiered at the 30th Tokyo International Film Festival in October where it competed for the Asian Future Film prize. Despite cultural differences, Celeste proudly recalled that the Japanese audience loved the movie, laughed at the right moments, and even stayed until the very last credit was shown on screen.
The musical also received praises from Variety’s film critic Richard Kuipers, who said Ang Larawan was “beautifully decorated” and “top-notch” in every technical detail.
“Magaling tayong Pilipino. Meron tayong mga Pilipino na nakakagawa ng ganito kagandang script, istorya,” Celeste said. (We Filipinos are very good. We have so many Filipinos who can do these kinds of good scripts and stories.)
“Kasi parang (Because) nowadays it’s difficult to find inspiration. We’re hoping that this film will give you inspiration because of what you’re going to see and umabot na tayo sa (we have reached a) higher level of excellence. I’m really hoping that’s what they’ll feel.”
4. Ang Larawan was made with millennials in mind. Paulo Avelino encouraged the younger generation to give the musical a chance. According to the actor, seeing the movie will give them a different perspective and a better understanding of our culture as Filipinos.
“There’s learning in understanding where we came from. In this scenario, it’s understanding our history, understanding how we were as Filipinos then, it’s about understanding our culture,” he said.
“It says a lot about how we are now. In good ways, in better ways, our families are still very loving here in the Philippines but we also have those bad sides [like] crab mentality…and it was written during a long time…We still have these traits. The good ones and the bad ones.”
“Sana suportahan natin ‘yung mga pelikula na nagbibigay ng ibang panlasa sa ating mga sinehan.” (I hope we support the movies that give a different flavor to the audience.)
5. Ang Larawan marks Paulo Avelino’s musical debut. Paulo has no theater background but has always been interested in the performing arts. To prepare for the role of Tony Javier, the young boarder the sisters took in to earn extra income for the household, Paulo went through almost 3 months of vocal training. (READ: Paulo Avelino on historical dramas and being Goyo)
“I have never done any musical before or any big plays and upon reading this material I really got interested in plays. If this film works, they have a lot in store, nasa kanila ‘yung rights. Sana ibigay sa’ kin ‘yung isa (they have the rights, I hope they can give one to me),” Paulo said with amusement.
“I got so interested in it sana kahit ‘di s’ya musical, maisa-pelikula itong mga treasured na mga plays.” (I got so interested in it that even if it wasn’t a musical, I hope the the treasured plays would be turned into films.)