Newest Reviews
Transformers: The Last Knight
Foreigner, The
Clones, The
Monster Hunt
Happy End
Ugly American, The
Ritual of Evil
Vigilante Diaries
Happy Death Day
You Can't Stop the Murders
Legend of the Mountain
Man: The Polluter
Wolf Warrior II
Journey to the Seventh Planet
Ghost Story, A
Lady in the Lake
Devil at Your Heels, The
Paddington 2
Two Jakes, The
Re: Born
Dracula Sucks
Perfect Weapon, The
Hollywood Babylon
True Legend
Die Laughing
Thor Ragnarok
Killing of a Sacred Deer, The
Newest Articles
Stop That, It's Silly: The Ends of Monty Python
They're All Messed Up: Night of the Living Dead vs Land of the Dead
The House, Black Magic and an Oily Maniac: 3 from 70s Weird Asia
80s Meet Cute: Something Wild vs Into the Night
Interview with The Unseen Director Gary Sinyor
Wrong Forgotten: Is Troll 2 Still a Thing?
Apocalypse 80s UK: Threads and When the Wind Blows
Movie Flop to Triumphant TV Revival: Twin Peaks and The League of Gentlemen
Driving Force: The Golden Age of American Car Chases
Madness in his Method: Jim Carrey and Andy Kaufman
  Insiang A Woman With StandardsBuy this film here.
Year: 1976
Director: Lino Brocka
Stars: Hilda Koronel, Mona Lisa, Ruel Vernal, Rez Cortez, Marlon Ramirez, Nina Lorenzo, Melly Mallari, Carpi Asturias, George Atutubo, Eddie Pagayon, Joe Jardy, Danilo Pasadas, Estrella Antonio, Jimmy Calaguas, Belen Chikote, Tommy Yap
Genre: Drama
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Insiang (Hilda Koronel) lives with her domineering mother Tonya (Mona Lisa) who has aged into utter bitterness in the time since her husband, Insiang's father, left them and their Filipino shanty town behind for pastures new, and possibly another woman too. She does her best, but life is a struggle when the men cannot hold down a job, money is tight, and everyone seems just about to break out into an argument at any time, as happens when some of the family who live with the pair grow sick and tired of Tonya's haranguing and leave, making the amount of funds coming into the household even slimmer. But to make matters worse, Tonya has her eye set on the biggest bully in the slum, Dado (Ruel Vernal)...

Writer and director Lino Brocka was hitting his stride when he made Insiang, starring Koronel who was fast becoming one of the Philippines' most respected actresses, with the result that this played in Cannes among other places around the globe. It took his usual subject matter, the poverty-stricken inhabitants of his native country, and elevated their plight to operatic heights, not that there was much singing but as with many developing countries their idea of popular entertainment leaned strongly on melodrama, even when they were purporting to stay realistic in the material, never mind the approach that they settled upon. With this, you were getting big emotions.

Emotions such as anger, which you were invited, nay ordered, to feel when you became invested in the title character's dilemma. Quite often in this form of cinema the acting was perfunctory, or at least less defined than what many who were used to higher budget efforts were prepared to tolerate, but Brocka brought out a couple of fine performances from both his leading ladies, so much so that you could practically hear the crackle of tension in the air when they set to discussing what was on their minds. What that usually was turned out to be Dado, who when he was not romancing Tonya was scaring Insiang's boyfriend Bebot (Rez Cortez) away from her or else face this violent wrath.

Not that Bebot is a great guy himself, as he appears to mostly be with his girlfriend because she is not promiscuous and he senses he can have her all to himself if he treats her well enough, all so that he may get her into bed eventually. Once he has done so, he might not be so interested, not enough to hang around, leading the whole suffering women stuck with deadbeat men plotlines to be connected to the works of Douglas Sirk or Rainer Werner Fassbinder in the minds of those who liked to join the dots among the more notable filmmakers of the world. But Brocka was more of a piece with the impoverished filmmakers who really had to scrape their funds together to amass their budget, worked in reduced conditions to bring their narratives to life, and were closer to their contemporaries in the poorer nation's entertainment industries.

Time and again we were reminded of how a lack of any kind of income to any satisfactory degree can lead to degradation, such as the scene where Insiang is cooking herself a meal and her mother casually walks in and squats down to urinate mere feet away, not bothering to cover herself for privacy; Filipinos may not be too perturbed by this, but it was startling to anyone who needs to lock the toilet door before they can perform their ablutions. But the really worrying part arrived when Dado rapes Insiang, a turning point we should have seen coming and even if you did still shocks - he basically knocks her out as she struggles and carts her off to his bed to violate her - which he then manages to blame on her for seducing him, so if this is operating at any kind of visceral level should be making the viewer very angry indeed. It is here where our heroine opts to play a long game to achieve vengeance, reminiscent of film noir except the fallen woman is worthy of our sympathies as she takes herself to very dark places to do so. Only the ending deflates this slightly, though it is believable in a compelling slice of life in overheated delivery. Music by Minda D. Azarcon.

[This has been released on a BFI Blu-ray/DVD double bill with Manila in the Claws of Light under the title Lino Brocka: Two Films. Those features:

New 4K restorations of both films
Manila... A Filipino Film (Mike de Leon, 1975, 33 mins): fascinating making-of documentary featuring interviews and behind-the-scenes footage
Manila stills and collections gallery
Visions Cinema: Film in the Philippines (Ron Orders, 1983, 40 mins): Tony Rayns interviews Lino Brocka and other prominent Filipino directors.
Signed: Lino Brocka (Christian Blackwood, 1987, 84 mins): award-winning, feature-length documentary exploring the director's life and work
The Guardian Lecture: Lino Brocka in conversation with Tony Rayns (1982, 62 mins, audio only)
Illustrated booklet featuring a new essay by Cathy Landicho Clark, an archive interview with Lino Brocka and full film credits.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


This review has been viewed 452 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which film has the best theme song?
The Ups and Downs of a Handyman

Recent Visitors
Andrew Pragasam
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Enoch Sneed
Jason Cook
Paul Shrimpton
  Jony Clark
  The Elix


Last Updated: