Considered as Lino Brocka’s “first novel”, Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang is a drama film starring Lolita Rodriguez, Christopher De Leon, Mario O’hara and Eddie Garcia. It was released on May 30, 1974 with a running time of 128 minutes. The film had eight nominations from FAMAS(Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences) Awards and won six awards: Best Picture, Best Actor (Christopher De Leon), Best Actress (Lolita Rodriguez), Best Director (Lino Brocka), Best Musical Score (Lutgardo Labad), Best Theme Song (Emmanuel Lacaba for Awit ni Koala).
The story began from a flashback of a crying woman having an abortion. She was accompanied by a man named Cesar (Eddie Garcia) with an old woman, an abortionist. Kuala (Lolita Rodriguez), the pregnant woman, was pleading them to stop but was ignored. After that, she was shown burying her child under a tree.
A dirty, crazy, short bald-patched haired and different Kuala who wanders on the streets of Sta. Rita and sleeps in front of the church was shown. She is an outcast and was always mocked by the society. Berto (Mario O'Hara) who was called Bertong Ketong (Berto the leper), who seeks woman companionship, has the same treatment by the society like Kuala. He has a house in a cemetery together with his dog, Lupa. Berto attracted Kuala by the sound of a rattle and there he bathed, feed and took care of her. He treated her like a normal person and lets her stay there and sleep.
Junior (Christopher De Leon), Cesar’s son was a teenage guy who is somehow different from the society. He was Evangeline’s boyfriend (Hilda Koronel) who then becomes the wife of his close friend. Junior also had a one night special relationship with Milagros (Laurice Guillen), an illegitimate child and sister of one of his peers. But after what they had, Milagros left him without anything. The things that happened to Junior drew him close to Kuala and Berto, the latter always gives him advises and stories from his own life like how he learned to love Kuala and asks for nothing in return, how the society makes fun of them and how he made Junior re-think at laughing at others when Junior talked about his gay teacher and made fun of it.
|Junior talking about his gay teacher|
One day, Kuala was seen by one of the members La Asociacion de las Damas Cristianas pregnant. Kuala was then taken away from Berto for him not to be able to touch her again. He accepted what had happened but a lot more pain caused Berto when he lost his dog Lupa and found out that it was killed and eaten by the drinking bystanders who made him eat his own pet.
Junior tried to seek help from his father to let Kuala out of the care of the association but got nothing from him. On Christmas time, Berto asked Junior to give Kuala a gift. It was the rattle that always attracts Kuala.
One night, Kuala was on labor and instead of getting help from the sisters of the association, she escaped and went to Berto’s place all blood on her legs. Berto then seek for help and went to the doctor’s house that refused to believe in what he was saying. Berto then held him as a hostage out of desperation. The wife of the doctor then seeks for the townsfolk’s’ help and news spread like a wild fire. Everybody was then following Berto and the doctor as they were on their way to Berto’s place. The police then came and Junior shouted to stop them but failed when they already shot Berto. Junior came to Berto, who had his farewell speech.
|Junior crying over Berto's death|
They then heard a baby’s cry in Berto’s house. There, they saw Kuala with her baby. Junior came near her and talked to her then Kuala suddenly remembered everything: Cesar, her abortion, Junior and Berto, who took care and loved her despite her condition. She then gave her baby to Junior and dies. Junior exits through the crowd who gave him a way to walk through with an indifferent looks on their faces.
|Kuala giving her baby to Junior|
|Junior with the baby walking through the crowd|
Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang was directed by Lino Brocka and co-written the story with Mario O’Hara who also produced the film.
This classic film has the lighting that builds up the mood of the situation. It has these dramatic and sullen aura which gives justice for its drama genre. It also helps set up the character’s emotion which gives an additional flavor for the film. On the other hand, I am quite worried about the background music in some parts of the movie. The first part where Kuala was having an abortion has a very disturbing background. In my opinion, it does not match nor helps in building the act, it was a one of the most sensitive and important part of the film and should have been given a much more soulful background in it. Contrary to the first scoring, the background music of Kuala where she was shown wandering the streets and sleeping outside the church has a very emotional and genuine feeling in it. I like it very much to the point that I pity Kuala for what had happened to her life. It was so personal to me and I was also happy for the fact that the title of the movie was in the lyrics of the song. The music was provided by Lutgardo Labad and Emmanuel Lacaba. No wonder why it won as the Best Theme Song for FAMAS.
The Structuralist Film Theory is very strong in this film. The shots were created to convey message. A good example would be when Berto saw Kuala lying somewhere with her legs wide open. Berto’s face and Kuala’s legs were shown alternately which gives us the message that Berto wants to have sex with Kuala even if his expression is unreadable.
The editing is fine considering it is an old movie. The transitions were normal which fades from one scene to another. There are just some shots were it is kind of unstable like when Berto was showing Kuala the rattle but it is very effective since it establishes the mood of the acting. Establishing shots were also shown which helps the viewer know where the place is happening.
Lolita Rodriguez played as Kuala and was so great at it. Her character was very strong considering she had a minimal dialogue. She justified her role by actions and facial expressions and I should give her two-thumbs up for that because I really appreciate and understand how hard it is to deliver such role without even saying anything. Junior was portrayed by Christopher De Leon and I think there is no one that could ever be anymore perfect for the role. He had this good guy look on him which is needed strongly for his character. The way he throws his lines were also undeniably good. He does it with conviction and genuine feelings. His facial expressions are good as well especially when he cried of Berto’s death and when he walked through the crowd while holding the baby. For some unknown reason, my favorite character is Berto who was portrayed by the late Mario O’Hara. He gave justice to the wise yet society-outcast character. He makes me pity and appreciate him. His character was so moving and it can be seen happening in real life.
Eddie Garcia played as Cesar and of course, he was perfect for the role. Known as the womanizer and called “Manoy” even in real life, he makes me hate him. As an antagonist in any story, if you make the viewers hate you, then you are doing great. Well, I can absolutely say that he did great then. I kind of had a problem with Milagros played by Laurice Guillen since her character did not have a closure. She was gone just like that. I don’t know if it is part of the story to leave the people thinking or anything but I think it would have been best if something was heard from her after she and Junior had sex. On the acting skills, she was just fine with her character, not really outstanding. She could have had a lot more emotions on her face because her role was quite forgettable. She was only remembered because the viewers were looking for her after she her character vanished. The other minor characters like Evangeline played by Hilda Koronel, The Association with Anita Linda and others, Junior’s friends and the town’s people acted very natural. Since I am a Filipino, I can relate so much in some of their characters because some of it are still seen and felt nowadays. They were quite convincing in their respective roles.
The film was so realistic that every Filipino can relate to it. Some may deny it, some may just shrug their shoulders and some will agree to me. It is just a sad fact about how the society can dictate someone’s life. Like Kuala and Berto, they are neglected and considered an outcast because they are different from the others. The things is, being different is not so bad. What makes someone bad is how narrow-minded and hypocrite he can be. We are all trying to fit in a society that judges us even before we do something. After watching Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang, you should ask yourself. Are you any different from them?
(c) Angelu Gawaran