‘Fisting’ is… a lot to handle

Some spoilers ahead. Though this film isn’t exactly driven by plot. We can explain.

 

There’s this one scene in Fisting (its title since changed to Never Tear Us Apart, but here I will refer to the film by its true name) by director Whammy Alcazaren, which is set in an all-white room decorated with a carpet, an old-fashioned television set, and a chair that looks like it was designed by Kenneth Cobonpue. A man dressed in formal black is on the chair, and a woman in a red dress is sitting on the carpet. As the TV plays old footage of John F. Kennedy’s cautionary speeches against the threat of communism, spliced with soundbit utterances of the word “pervert,” the woman crawls up to the man and performs fellatio on him, slurping sounds mixing with the din of static and neoliberal propaganda.

This is just one vignette, one stitch on the quilt, among the many that form the tapestry of Fisting, a world characterized by many things that elude immediate comprehension. One such thing is the Shadow, a prolific serial killer and rapist who, despite his clear appetite for blood and body, is treated more like an abstract threat in Fisting’s world — not a human with a face and gun, but a spectre. The presence of this looming force leaks into the peripheries of the film’s three main characters, the Pacifico family: a father working as a spy, a slowly-going-mad mother, and a son coming to terms with the whirlpool grip of physical desire.

 

The presence of this looming force leaks into the peripheries of the film’s three main characters, the Pacifico family: a father working as a spy, a slowly-going-mad mother, and a son coming to terms with the whirlpool grip of physical desire.

 

Their narrative arcs are deployed in fragments and shards, spliced together with disparate images — American TV commercials, GIFs, still life flatlays, 8-bit pixel clips, and other pop culture allusions form Fisting’s collage in motion. That’s one of the first things you notice, aside from the fact that the movie was filmed with the vertical camera of an iPhone X: the spastic, abrasive editing. To me, the editing style captures, even represents, the chaotic inner worlds of the film’s characters, their psychosocial context. Like the volley of images that Fisting relentlessly pitches at us, sexual appetites, violent impulses, and various coping mechanisms all compete for psychic real estate. Watching Fisting, you feel like the darkest parts of your character aren’t as compartmentalized as you think they are.

 

Though whether deliberate or incidental, the general story of Fisting is hard to follow, the movie’s main strengths being its mood.

 

Though whether deliberate or incidental, the general story of Fisting is hard to follow, the movie’s main strengths being its mood. Tonally, the movie tiptoes with thrilling precariousness between heavy dread and hilarity — when you laugh, it’s the kind of laugh that jumps out of the rift of a psychotic break. But it’s as if Fisting made some kind of bargain, trading narrative neatness for the kind of full-frontal existential assault only rapid-fire visual parataxis can deliver.

Is that a bad thing, then? Hard to say. Even if one can forgive the kalat storytelling, not everyone will appreciate the jarring, disorienting editing style, each incoming scene and image ripping you away from your last sight, cutting so fast it sometimes feels like whiplash. And while the compelling performances of Ricky Davao and Meryl Soriano kind of ground us in Fisting’s heady world, the script they have to work with is esoteric, written in a lofty language register.

 

This is all a very roundabout way of saying that this film, as complex and disturbing as it is, isn’t for everybody.

 

This is all a very roundabout way of saying that this film, as complex and disturbing as it is, isn’t for everybody. I’ve heard rumors of people straight-up walking out after the first 10 minutes. That might be you. But if not, and you acclimate yourself to the film’s weirdness early on, let me say with the kind of wink and shit-eating grin that the film wears, that Fisting might appeal to you, as it makes its weird points and arguments, one finger at a time.

 

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