Tioseco-Bohinc Film Series: CAMEROON LOVE LETTER (FOR SOLO PIANO) Review



A Westerner (Gertjan Zuilhof, voiced by Lourd de Veyra) travels to Cameroon. The place feels foreign. The roads are littered with potholes filled to the brim with muddy water. The cityscapes and the rural towns, while seemingly familiar, are estranged. The cuisine, the nightlife, the culture, they serve no purpose greater than the various museum pieces on display. They are objects of curiosities and temporary fascination.

 

These are the focal points of the point-and-shoot camera that serves as vessel for memories that are insignificant enough to be discarded from the mind over some time. Cameroon becomes the third-world fantasyland, conveniently draped in alien blue to mask the foreignness of it all and all too eager to please the Westerner. The Westerner is only there to forget his life by piling the African country's countless exotic mysteries on persisting memories of a failed love.

 

There are two letters. One is read. The other infrequently appears on screen. One is written by the man addressed to his woman, who left him, making him decide to end his life. As read, it echoes both the intoxicating charms of falling in love and the damned hangover of losing the intoxication to indifference. It aches with reminiscence and aches some more with the thought that a reply is not forthcoming for the letter is meant to be read when geographic distance is not the only factor that separates the former lovers but death. The other is written by the woman, presumably right before leaving her man. It reeks of rationalization for falling in love and falling out of it. Romantic and anti-romantic clichés abound, it burns like a bitch because the words resonate with only the most painful of truths.

 

The two letters are presented as if they were brutal exchanges in a lover's quarrel where one adamantly wants out of the relationship while the other pleads for a second, third, fourth chance. Just by the way they are presented and the reflected dispositions of the letter-writers, it already predicts the incurable distance that plagues their love, or whatever remains of it. Clearly, these are two lovers on opposing ends. Such is the inevitability of heartbreak, and because of that, the inevitability of painful empathizing to the melancholy of love lost.

 

Khavn dela Cruz accompanies the film with live music from an electric piano. The mastermind conjures notes from his instrument in a succession that creates cords and melodies that emphasize the subtle and not-so-subtle emotional tones of the film. It is a score, all at once beautiful, haunting, infuriating, whimsical and lovely, that dissipates as soon as the screening ends, only to remain a memory that wafts quietly alongside the incongruence of the jovial images and the hurtful words of the two letters that make up the vaporous narrative.

 

Cameroon Love Letter (For Solo Piano)'s several elements seem separate. The film itself is connected only to the spoken words by a figment of association, and the spoken words to the displayed words by applied logic, and everything else to the live music by operation of innate human emotions. Like magic, like that spark that binds disparate people into a union supported only by the flimsiest yet most heralded of feelings, the elements marry during the hour or so that you allow yourself to wallow in the weakness of love. If these lovers were not far apart in terms of distance, of gravity of emotions, of everything that is important to uphold a relationship, will these love letters exist at all?

 

Distance is love's greatest foe. It is love lost's greatest companion.


(Cross-published in Lessons from the School of Inattention)

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