One of the strengths of Jose Rizal is the incorporation of the characters of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo in the life of Rizal and of the Filipinos in general. This only shows that the two books are reflections of the lives of the Filipinos during the Spanish regime. But the thought and noble ideas of the book do not only live in the past but also in the present manifesting the universality and immortality of Rizal’s ideas. The beautiful transition of Rizal’s time and the setting of the two novels is really impressive.
One must have really read the books to better appreciate the movie Jose Rizal. While watching the film, I cannot help but relate Rizal to Crisostomo/Simoun, Leonor to Maria Clara. Rizal and Crisostomo both came from a well-off family. Both of them studied in Europe. Both have dedicated their life to free their people from oppression. And then there’s a scene where Leonor was walking down the aisle and Maria Clara singing in the nunnery.
Both were locked up-the former to a person whom she does not love; the latter to a place, which seems to be a dead end. Maria Clara jumping off from the bell tower is her way to get out, her way towards salvation. The film also works through a series of flashback showing Rizal as a genius, a writer, a doctor, an artist, a lover, a friend, a brother and a son, thus giving a rich texture of Rizal’s character. I also commend the film for its bravery in showing the evil tyranny of the Catholic Church during that time.
Considering that the Philippines is a Catholic nation, that is like butchering a sacred cow but alas, Abaya works her magic in depicting the suffering of the Filipinos because of the friars. I particularly love the last scene of the film when Rizal, excellently played by Cesar Montano by the way, fell in the ground facing the sky, having his last breath looking at a beautiful sunrise- a metaphor depicting that Rizal did not die in vain.
He did not die defeated because his death is the torch that lights Philippine independence, that ignites Philippine Revolution. This is more apparent in the scene where Simoun (a character in El Filibusterismo) appeared to Rizal telling him to rewrite the story. Rizal wrote and an imaginary explosion happened. A burst of light and flame overwhelmed the screen. In a way that has been the legacy of Rizal-bringing light to the Filipinos. He died victorious because in the end his memory and legacy remain forever.