Review: Sherad Sanchez's JUNGLE LOVE Is An Erotic Ride To The Pleasurable Unknown

At first glance, Sherad Sanchez's Jungle Love seems needlessly indulgent. Rebelling against traditional concepts of what is deemed to be acceptable and tasteful in cinema, the film is littered with exposed flesh, dark, wrinkled, blonzed or tattooed, interacting with each other in wild abandon. Its loose narrative deflects any easy reading that could defend the abundant sexuality. If it weren't for the deliciously ambiguous atmosphere so efficiently conjured by the images framed and lighted by cinematographers Malay Javier and Gym Lumbera and the mystical sounds inflicted by scorer Teresa Barrozo, Sanchez's film could have been something more akin to exotic erotica than art.

Jungle Love, of course, is far from being plainly titillating. It is draped in irreverence, starting with its repetitious use of a bastardized version of a popular religious song, the lyrics of which is heavy with biting and humorous stabs against the hypocrisy of the church, the most prominent social institution that overvalues sexual morality. The film, with its unabashed exploration of sex without the benefit of love, romance or other man-made emotions, thrusts its audience into a world where men and women are either predators or preys consumed by an inexplicable and inescapable lust. The jungle, aside from being the literal wilderness where the film's characters get lost into, is also that seductive call to escape from the bounds of what is commonly conceived to be as civilized and to be stripped of society-imposed restraint.

Sanchez succeeds in turning his characters, the well-off hikers (Martin Riffer and Mae Bastes) who find themselves lost in the jungle with their guide (Aldrin Sapitan), the desperate mistress (Gloria Morales) who steals her lover's baby into the jungle, and the bored soldier (Edgardo Amar) who becomes attracted to a mysterious jungle dweller, into vessels of various repressed longings too outrageous to be let out in the open. The film relishes in sweat and hormones, in things that drive humans to break free from the chains of dull civilization.

Interestingly, for a movie that is unembarrassed in depicting nudity and sexual acts, Jungle Love is most sensual during the moments when it lures its audience to itself intertwined with the characters' intoxicating indulgences. Its utmost pleasures are experienced during the scenes where the characters are hindered from pleasure, as a result of what seems to be either acts of oppression or playful seduction. The first few sequences feature three of the characters shown alone, but presumably conversing with an offscreen subject. Despite the very limited visuals, Sanchez populates the scenes with a very palpable sense of oppression that is surprisingly erotic. The physical attraction is adequately replaced by mind games, of words and gestures that taunt and tease. The effect is truly remarkable in a way it mirrors how the unseen and the unfelt have a tremendous effects on the deprived psyche.

The film acknowledges sex as a tool for oppression, for power and control. Despite the dissipating traces of social order, of class and religion as the jungle further consumes all the various characters, the film still manages expose the glaring gaps that divide humanity. Sanchez miraculously does it with a wicked sense of humor and a glorious appreciation of the delightful dangers of letting go of human inhibitions and giving into the basest of bodily pleasures. Jungle Love accomplishes the nearly impossible task of turning what could be a lewd and perverted showcase into a mirror of our innate desire to venture into the unknown, to abandon the clutches of good taste, and to get lost in the limitless jungle where men are but beasts among other beasts.

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