An arrestingly shot monochrome study about the aftereffects of a rape, “The Natural Phenomenon of Madness” reps an impressive sophomore effort from Filipino multihyphenate Charliebebs Gohetia (“The Thank You Girls”), who’s edited some of Brillante Mendoza’s pics. The drama’s brainy formalist approach shows two protags’ somewhat different views of the same events in a manner that recalls Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Syndromes and a Century,” which should make the pic a natural for further fests.
Set in contempo Manila among a bohemian set not often featured in Filipino cinema, the story revolves around a female artist (Opaline Santos) and a man (Jess Mendoza), never named. Seemingly friends since childhood, the man rapes the woman in the opening sequence; thereafter, the camera follows the femme around as she talks to a doctor, confronts her rapist and generally wanders around the city. Second half shows the man confessing to a priest and having slightly different conversations with the woman in settings previously seen (seemingly repping his version of what happened on the same occasions), generally mirroring her peregrinations. Pic features strong perfs and knockout widescreen lensing, but the pace is a bit draggy.