Direction: Paolo Dy; Lead cast: Andreas Muñoz, Javier Godino, Julio Perillan, Lucas Fuica; Screenplay: Paolo Dy; Story: Paolo and Cathy Azanzy Dy, Pauline Mangilog-Saltarin, Emmanual Alfonso, SJ; Cinematography: Lee Meily Briones; Editing: Marya Ignacio; Producer: Pauline Mangilog-Saltarin, Ernestine Tamana; Music: Ryan Cayabyab; Location: Spain; Genre: Drama; Distributor: Jesuit Communications Philippines (JESCOM); Running Time:120 minutes
Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment: 3.5
CINEMA rating: V13
MTRCB rating: PG13
The movie opens with Iñigo de Loyola (Andreas) at the crossroads of his conversion and then we are taken into his childhood and the final battle where he is badly injured and forced to retire. As a soldier, he seeks worldly pleasure and selfish honor. He equates his value with his prowess, nobility and chivalry. So when he loses them, he loses the desire to live until he reads the stories of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic, and Jesus which inspires him to give up everything and change his ways. He develops a unique form of prayer, now known as the Spiritual Exercises. But this catches the attention of the very conservative Church. Iñigo is tried by the Church Tribunal for heresy and preaching without authority. People who were touched or found his ways repulsive, who loved and followed him as well as those who hated and maybe envied him, are called to testify. How much will he give up to fight for his new found faith?
The problem with movies with so much hype is the corresponding level of expectation it creates. JESCOM’s Ignacio de Loyola—which has a Spanish cast and was filmed in Spain at the sites where the historic events took place—had the proper amount of build up months before it was shown in the big screen, so the question after watching it is “Did it deliver?”
Undoubtedly, Ignacio is like a painting brought to life with the quality of shots and expressiveness of the lighting. These brought to life the artistry of the costumes and location which just emphasizes the painstaking intelligence that came with it. Cayabyab’s scoring was remarkable—not necessarily unique—but in the context of the grandiosity of the film, it more than worked. Andreas is a soulful performer. He is gracious as a valiant soldier and authentic in his struggle to fight for what he believes in. This alone makes the film a worthy competitor of any epic Hollywood film. On the other hand, the computer generated images and screen replacements were not seamless as we would have wanted them to be. The sky and mountain in some scenes look too fantasy inspired. The battle scenes with the thousand French soldiers look manipulated. At this point, we wished the producers had a bigger budget so they could have shot everything live instead of relying on post production work because it is so strong visually. One other jarring visual is the contrast of image quality between the scenes shot in Spain and the one shot in the Philippines (one of the scenes towards the end). The former had so much depth that the latter felt off.
We have to give it to Dy who brilliantly collapses the highlights of Ignacio’s life into two hours and makes him relatable to every other person who has fallen and risen. While we would have liked to see more contrast in his before-and-after character, we respect the director’s subtlety. The script is elitist and had too many words although the words pierce the heart and imprint valuable messages. Dy also masterfully intersperses action with narration during the witnesses’ testimonies in the court scene. However, action shots could have replaced close-ups of Andreas because after some time, no matter how lovely his face is, it gets repetitive.
Every person can change. Every person should be given a chance to discover that God is alive in everyone. And every person must be given the liberty to express love and service regardless of whether this follows tradition or culture. Because when the person changes, discovers God and finds his path to love and serve, he will give up everything. The story of Iñigo (Ignacio) resonates other saints who changed: Paul, Augustine, Mary Magdalene, Angela of Foligno, Dismas, the Thief. But what makes his story stand out is the intensity of Ignacio’s desire to dedicate himself to serving God through every person in need. He saw God in the faces of the sick, poor, neglected and in turn he brought God to them.
So we go back to the question: does Ignacio de Loyola deliver? Does it live up to all its hype (which includes the distinction of being the first Filipino film to have been shown at the Vatican)? Of course, it does, and it would be such a shame if it gets pulled out of mainstream cinema because viewers supported formula films instead of the Filipino opus that bravely stepped up to raise the quality of production and showed it can be done.