“Manila in the Claws of Light” is a descent to the first circle of hell […] that of social alienation, particularly hard for Julio, a fisherman from a poor but almost Adamic world. The Dante of the suburbs and building sites, Brocka sows the path of his hero with black pebbles: fatal accidents in the construction site, fights that tragically predict his desire to kill, a rugged engraving of the circles of male prostituition. And, forever in our memory, the vision of the epitome of Dante’s Beatrice, taken from her family by an old lady on the false pretext of sponsoring the girl’s studies, though actually sold at high prices to a Chinese tradesman.
“I was in first-year college and our literature professor assigned us to watch Manila. I was stunned. It was so powerful that time. I remember discussing the film passionately with my classmates. Yes, Marcos knew the use of media and the arts. He knew the dynamics of control and the principle of mythmaking via these mediums. He was a master of the concept of conditioning. He was very much into that culture – the Animal Farm type – and so, Lino was an enemy and a threat.” (Lav Diaz) —TFF
Lino Brocka was born in Pilar, Sorsogon. He directed his first film, Wanted: Perfect Mother, based on The Sound of Music and a local comic serial, in 1970. It won an award for best screenplay at the 1970 Manila Film Festival. Later that year he also won the Citizen’s Council for Mass Media’s best-director award for the film Santiago!.
In 1974 Brocka directed Weighed But Found Wanting, which told the story of a teenager growing up in a small town amid its petty and gross injustices. It was a box-office hit, and earned Brocka another best-director award, this time from the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS).
The following year he directed The Claws of Light, which is considered by many critics to be the greatest Philippine film ever made – including British film critic and historian Derek Malcolm 1. The film tells the allegorical tale of a young provincial named Julio Madiaga who goes to Manila looking for his lost love, Ligaya Paraiso. The episodic plot… read more
Glad I finally got around to seeing this after reading about it through the years. It is extremely well-written, has plenty of subversive content, and comes from the perspective of an underrepresented part of the world. Plus, Hilda Koronel simply gives one of the best female performances in cinema.
Like something out of myth. The country boy flees to the city to find his lost love only to be cruelly exploited and left for dead. Surely, Lino Brocka's Manila in the Claws of Light is one of the most powerful and soul-draining films ever made. Veering between stark realism and a surreal, dreamy, but very much gritty melodrama, he lay bare the horrors faced by those who build the world. Brocka maintains a perfect balance between the personal and political. His Manila is brought to life with a startling energy, rarely has such a sense of place been so thoroughly depicted on the screen. This is a city of gridlike constructions, neon lights popping in the light, slums where the sewage spills over into the streets. The urban environment as hell in its rawest, most uncompromising form. So many films today dealing with poverty ultimately glamorize it, and involve plots featuring rich saviors that appeal to the upper middle-class. But Brocka's film was made for the very people it is about; this is not some wimpy social justice protest, but a primal scream from true liberation from all forms of oppression. The final two freeze-frames, one dissolving into another is an ending forever seared into my mind. A box of tissues is not enough to stop the flow of tears.