|Magdalena, the Unholy Saint
Since the majority of the residents of The Philippines are Roman Catholic, it is not surprising
to find that filmmakers from that country would tackle issues that revolve around religion. While
some niche movie makers are finding success in the United States (the most obvious being Mel
Gibson’s decision to make THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST), the topic remains one of the
last taboos by Hollywood standards.
MAGDALENA is purported to be “inspired” by the legend of Mary Magdalene. According
to accepted legend, the Magdalene was a woman of ill repute who repented her sins and ended up
following Christ. This, of course, doesn’t dovetail exactly with the biblical character, who is
mentioned by name in only a few passages, including as one of the women who went to Jesus’
tomb and discovered it empty. As has been pointed out by several books, the Catholic Church
bastardized the story of this woman, who more than likely was an educated follower of Christ’s.
(There’s even fragments of a gospel attributed to her that were found yet which were not officially
sanctioned by the Church.)
Since director Laurice Guillen (AMERICAN ADOBO) and screenwriters Johnny Delgado,
Michiko Yamamoto, Jerry Gracio and Johnny Gracio subscribe to the view of the Magdalene as a
woman of questionable repute who repented, they have fashioned their story as such.
The plot revolves around Malen (an uneven Angelica Panganiban), the rebellious daughter of
a pious mother (Hilda Koronel). Malen and her mother have been abandoned by her father and her
mother makes ends meet by offering prayers for people in distress in return for donations. For her
part, Malen sells scapulars and rosaries.
One day, Malen meets Mike (Jericho Rosales), a shady but attractive young entrepreneur
who drives tourists around as well as provides other services to lonely women as the need arises.
The pair fall in love, yet complications ensue. For one thing, Mike has a sickly son from a previous
relationship, and he’s not forthcoming about his “business.”
Following her mother’s death, Malen takes up her place in the church and begins to pray,
even though her heart isn’t really into it. But to her surprise, her intercessions appear to work and
she soon has a large following. Once she has undergone this spiritual awakening, Malen sees her
relationship with Mike change.
If the film had concentrated solely on Malen and her journey, it might have served as a sort
of inspirational drama. But the four screenwriters shoehorn in other stories and plots that are
meant to somehow serve as a counterbalance to Malen’s tale, but, in fact, detract from it. Mostly,
though, the screenplay doesn’t really develop the characters. There are illogical jumps – Malen goes
from rebellion to piety after having a fever dream about wandering in the desert and showing signs
of stigmata, Mike participates in an act of violence that seemingly comes out of nowhere. The
screenplay also includes supporting characters who are not wholly integrated into the story,
including a nun (Cherry Pie Picache) and a priest (screenwriter Johnny Delgado) being
investigated for corruption.
Because the story is a loose adaptation of the Magdalene tale, it does succeed in following
the outlines: A young woman of questionable virtue and religious conviction undergoes a sea change
and embraces her spirituality. One cannot fault the filmmakers if the tale itself is spurious. They
obviously were well-intentioned. The overall result, however, is an interesting, if not completely
MPAA Rating: None
Running time: 113 mins.
|© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.