Town In A Lake


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Town In A Lake
"Between its central mystery and its assault on the senses, Town In A Lake is a film that sets out to consume the viewer."

"We don't have rapists here," says one of the people of Matangtubig, not far into this film. It's a naive statement, of course, but the place is small enough that it might be true. Nevertheless, whatever its point of origin, there is a sense in this film that everyone we meet is carrying some kind of guilt.

Two teenage girls cross a bridge one night. A car pulls up beside them. A witness, down below, sees something he dare not report. The next day, one of the girls is found; she has been raped and murdered. The other is missing. As her mother frantically pleads with the police and a group of local volunteers sets out to search, the witness, a father himself, struggles with his conscience. How can the reality of the missing girl's plight be balanced against the importance of the concept of Matangtubig, the town with no crime, a refuge from the evils of this world and others?

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Town In A Lake is a film full of small observations which build into an overwhelming whole. The narrative is meandering, sometimes fractured, as no clear answers to the central mystery emerge. A press pack descends from Manila, seasoned reporters at ease with a story that has shocked the locals, yet before the end one of them, too, will come to wonder about this place. Rumours spread that the missing girl had fallen for a female classmate and the parents find themselves labelled as disapproving, as if they are somehow responsible for what has happened to her. Searchers struggle through thick undergrowth and slump against the roots of trees or return to the quayside for food. We can see their enthusiasm ebbing away as posters calling for justice and information begin to age, acquiring graffiti as organically as they acquire mould.

What really marks this film out is its astonishing sound design. There are narrative parallels with Twin Peaks and viewers will find themselves thinking of David Lynch's work more generally, because nobody else has ever really used sound in this way. It's there from the outset, communicating the presence of some vast force against which the villagers can put up little resistance. It's there in the wind and the rain which can represent real threat in this corner of the world. Everybody is aware of it but the only one to mention it is an outsider, who refers to "bad audio" as a flock of water fowl rise up into the air, adding their voices to the cacophony of nature. Gradually we become aware of other things unspoken, pushed aside. There is again the impression of complicity.

Between its central mystery and its assault on the senses, Town In A Lake is a film that sets out to consume the viewer. It's one of the boldest entries in the 2017 Fantasia line-up, and one hopes that it will bring director Jet Leyco some much-deserved international attention.

Reviewed on: 25 Jul 2017
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Town In A Lake packshot
When a teenage girl is found murdered, a search begins. A local father who saw her and a friend approached there by strangers wonders whether or not he should speak up.

Director: Jet Leyco

Writer: Brian Gonzales

Starring: Amante Pulido, Lance Raymundo, Shielbert Manuel, Therese Malvar, Maria Veronica Santiago

Year: 2015

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: Philippines


Fantasia 2017

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