Title: Town in a Lake(Fantasia 2017)

Also known as:

Year: 2015

Genre: Drama

Language: Filipino

Runtime: 88 min

Director: Jet Leyco

Writer: Brian Gonzales

IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5658278/

Matangtubig is a small and quiet fishing town but its usual tranquil nature is shattered when the townsfolk discover the body of a local young woman and realize another is missing. The town demands justice while the girls’ families try to cope with these shocking murders. As the press turns their attention to Matangtubig, the town’s secrets begin to seep to the surface. Now, the only witness to the crime has to decide what he must do, even if coming forward could mean the destruction of the town.

Our thoughts:
I don’t know how but the people behind the programming of the Fantasia International Film Festival manage to find films that subvert all expectations. The first film to do that for me this year was “Super Dark Times” — a movie that pulled me down deep into the depths of sorrow with a tale of tragedy. The other is Jet Leyco’s “Matangtubig” or “Town in a Lake” — a movie that carries a familiar premise about a murder in a small town but becomes a movie that manages to tear apart the very fabric of reality.

Jet Leyco’s latest feature has drawn a lot of comparisons to fellow filmmakers David Lynch and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Even though I completely despise drawing basic comparisons to other filmmakers, especially with how often people are willing to name drop Lynch (understand, if you use the term Lynchian, you’re an awful person). However…with “Town in a Lake”, the comparisons are reasonable. Leyco’s film feels familiar as it explores the aftermath of two young girls being murdered in a small town and how the film finds unease and horror in the silence of everyday living as a town copes.

While there is a sense of familiarity with the film, “Town in a Lake” never crosses into the territory of being redundant. With Leyco’s film, you bask in the atmosphere; whether scenes exist entirely of characters sitting in silence or it's dreary footage of the town, “Town in a Lake” blankets the viewer in a tense atmosphere of loss and monotony. To the film’s credit, it manages to capture this feeling almost exclusively from the silence that exists between the town’s inhabitants. There’s no action or suspense. Not in a traditional sense, anyway. It’s a meticulously designed movie that draws all that it needs out of the dull and monotonous every day life but uses the atrocities of murder to create the sensation of dread. The town’s people become overwhelmed; they’re suspicious and paranoid of one another and the movie quickly adapts this tone into its own atmosphere. Keeping plenty of weight on the audience with each passing moment.

The film does dip its toes a bit into realism territory with socio-political themes. Because Leyco is already using every day life as a backdrop, he uses this setting to capture smaller moments of honesty. While the town is initially swept up in the heinous crime of young women being brutally murdered, the town is also quick to move on — or worse, to find ways of blaming the victims for their untimely ends. Posters asking for any information about the crimes are soon covered in graffiti, mocking the victims. Reporters dig into the personal lives of the girls and their families and dredge up muck in the form of rumors — rumors that the town quickly turns into gossip and begin to believe their own lies. Even that runs its course though as (almost) everyone quickly moves into festive spirits as the town fair begins. It’s there that they express that they find the funerals for the girls to be bothersome and the young women’s families to be a nuisance.

These moments capture a unpleasant truth in life; people are always quick to move on. Especially when they are not directly affected by tragedy or social issues. This isn't being done in the sake of trying to make the townsfolk bad but rather it is the film simply acknowledging that this is how life is and how people behave.

Leyco could have easily left the movie there — allowing his film to be reflective of contemporary culture in the form of a drama about murder in a small town. However, sprinkled throughout his movie are small moments where something feels slightly off. That there’s something more going on than just the investigation of a possible double-murder. Yet the viewer is never quite sure. That is until the third act rolls in. This is where “Town in a Lake” draws a line in the sand for its audience — you’ll either embrace what Leyco and his film are doing or you’ll be frustrated and abandon it. As the movie reaches its critical point, and our main character — the only witness to the crime — decides to come forward about the murders. Him breaking his silence not only disrupts the notion that this town is peaceful, but it destroys reality itself — both in a literal and metaphorical sense.

That’s a sentence that probably doesn’t make much sense but I’m intentionally being ambiguous about it. Partially because I don’t want to spoil the movie since the final act is something that deserves to come as a surprise. Mainly it’s because I’m not entirely sure myself as to what Leyco intended with the ending of his film. It leaves the audience with no answers to the story and asks questions that go beyond the film itself.

Jet Leyco’s “Town in a Lake” is a film that is enriched with an incredible atmosphere of horror and melancholia. While I haven’t seen his previous two films, watching how Leyco allowed the empty spaces brought on by silence to tell more of the story than action made it an incredible watch. Even when the movie unravels in the third act and transitions into a form of abstract horror, Leyco never lost me as a viewer because it still felt natural by the end. Unfortunately, that won’t be the same for everyone. Not to anyone’s fault though. “Town in a Lake” is one of those movies where you allow yourself to become swept up with it, or you don’t. Especially with such an abstract and ambiguous ending.

Positive things:
- Beautiful cinematography.
- Dwells in its own atmosphere of unsettling silence.
- Captures small moments of realism.
- How abstract the third act becomes.
Negative things:
- There are no real negatives but I guess the lack of a “traditional” conclusion could be one.

Gore: 1/5
Nudity: 0/5
Story: 4/5
Effects: 4/5
Comedy: 2/5

We watched this movie thanks to:
Fantasia International Film Festival 2017

Reviewed by:






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