Lukas The Strange

Lukas The Strange


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

John Torres' film is strange by name and strange by nature and, like fellow Filipino film Big Boy, resistant to traditional narrative. Shot, for the most part, on expired 35mm film stock, it gives the film a mournful quality, of a past faded or ill-remembered, which plays into the ideas of memory and forgetfulness that flow through the film. Even the original title - according to an Idiom interview with Torres - Lukas Nino is deliberately without the tilde so that it translates, in Tagalog, as 'whose Lukas is this?' rather than 'child Lukas'.

The story, such as there is one, mixes myth and reality, constantly questioning which is which. Lukas is a teenager living in a village which is playing host to a film crew. He fears his father may be a tikbalang - a creature that is half-horse and half-man and a prankster who can lead the unwary away like a will-o-the-wisp - and part of the film concerns Lukas' personal coming of age, as he considers what this may mean for him after his father vanishes. Around him, the film shoot continues, with some of the striking images including a shot of local men running down the street brandishing imaginary guns.

Copy picture

An air of unreality pervades as we hear tell of a Lethe-like river - possibly in the film within the film - which offers the prize of forgetfulness to those who cross it in return for a physical scar... but they have to choose which memory to forget. Another promise offered by the waters is that those who are in love and cross it, receive the same scars. There are other missing people - not least an actress who may, or may not, have been supposed to have a starring role in the film being shot in the village.

Dreamy allegory is at work here, about notions of family, of inheritance and of coming to terms with yourself. But Torres seems also concerned with a more unpleasant country-wide sense of forgetfulness, how aspects of war and the Marcos dictatorship linger or, perhaps, are all too quickly forgotten - "no one but ex-soldiers swam in the river" we are told. Those who like films to start at A, proceed through B and end at C will find Torres' multi-layered, cluttered narrative difficult to contend with but those who prefer to disappear into a film without a road map will find plenty to enjoy.

Reviewed on: 16 Jul 2013
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As a film crew invades his small town home, a teenager hears that his father is a tikbalang - a half horse creature - and sets out on a magical voyage of discovery.

Director: John Torres

Starring: Cheeno Ladera Dalog, Edilberto Marcelino, Tao Aves

Year: 2013

Runtime: 82 minutes

Country: Philippines


EIFF 2013

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If you like this, try:

Big Boy
Fable Of The Fish