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Film / Insiang

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Insiang is a 1976 Filipino drama film directed by Lino Brocka. It stars Hilda Koronel as the titular character.

It tells the story of Insiang: a poverty-stricken young woman who lives with her abusive mother, Tonya (Mona Lisa) and, later, a promiscuous male lover, Dado (Ruel Vernal) who was with her mother in the first place in order to sleep with the daughter, who he later rapes. She has a boyfriend, Bebot (Rez Cortez) whom she trusted will take her away and keep her safe but also learns that he's no better. Having run out of options, she decides to take it upon herself to be free of the people who ruined her life and seeks vengeance by the latter half of the movie.

The movie is notorious for being set in the slums of Tondo. Insiang won four awards (for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Cinematography) in the 1976 Metro Manila Film Festival. It is also the first Filipino film to enter the Cannes Film Festival.


Provides examples of:

  • The '70s: The film is set in 1970s Manila.
  • '70s Hair: Bebot's afro stands out the most throughout the movie.
  • Abusive Mom: Tonya, Insiang's mother, is verbally abusive and is indifferent to her welfare as a whole.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Dado, a womanizing creep who targets both mother and daughter is killed by the former.
    • Bebot, Insiang's deadbeat boyfriend, ends up beaten by Dado (at the request of Insiang) for constantly reneging on his promises.
  • Batman Gambit: Insiang's plan for revenge involves having Dado, who seemed to have sensed that Insiang had softened up to him, get enough of his good side to have him do what she says like getting his thugs to beat up her boyfriend and fall in-love with her while Tonya becomes increasingly suspicious of their intimacy. Tonya confronts her and Insiang proudly answers that she does love Dado and Dado loves her. When her mother refuses to believe, she angers her more by saying that she's old and wrinkled and Dado only drinks before he gets in bed in order to stomach her. Later, Dado comes back home to surprise both of them that he got a job and plans to marry Insiang and take her far away. Having overheard this, an increasingly enraged Tonya finally snaps and attacks Dado with a knife, stabbing him repeatedly. While this happens, Insiang can only watch as her plan unfolds.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: Emphasis on "bitter". Bebot is beaten, Dado is killed by Tonya who is in turn imprisoned. Insiang later visits her mother and reveals her plan and she never really loved Dado. Her mother asks if she's happy that she had gotten her revenge and answers "no". Insiang tearfully embraces her mother, then parts. Her mother watches in tears while Insiang walks away stone-faced without looking back.
  • Blaming the Victim: Dado warps Tonya into thinking Insiang charmed him to sleep with her and she ends up scolding her daughter for flirting with him, despite looking hurt and in tears.
  • Broken Bird: The ending has effectively turned Insiang into this, as her stoic expression also implies that she has become emotionally detached after all the suffering she was subjected to and her pursuit of revenge having planted a bitter seed in her heart.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Insiang, after being slapped by her mother, gives it back to her and says that Dado only hung around the house because Dado loves her (Insiang) and that he actually finds her (Insiang's mother) repulsive.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Nanding. So much so that he doesn't even court her (which was also because she was with Bebot). By the time he makes his move and offers to help Insiang, the damage has been done so she rejects him and his offer to help.
  • Character Title: The film is titled Insiang after its protagonist.
  • Crapsack World: Most of the film takes place in the ugly side of urban Philippines where unemployment and extreme poverty is everywhere.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Nanding constantly pines for Insiang, but by the time he admits his feelings for her, she's too focused on her revenge to actually reciprocate.
  • Dirty Coward: Bebot acts tough and picks fights but recoils at Dado's presence and is easily threatened by him. He doesn't even have the balls to be with Insiang anymore just because he was threatened earlier to stay away from her.
  • Disappeared Dad: Insiang's father who is said to have left the family for another woman.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Nanding is of the low-key yearning type. It's actually due to this that Insiang never notices him.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Subverted. Insiang's mother seemed to be horrified at the fact that Dado raped Insiang, but if you listen closely to her dialogue, she was only mad at him for cheating on her with her own daughter. And when Dado twists it into making her think that Insiang seduced him, her anger is then transplanted to Insiang.
  • I Lied: Insiang says that the hurtful words Dado said about her mother was not true and was part of her plan in making her so mad that she would kill him. Also, she never loved Dado and was actually disgusted by him.
  • I'm a Man; I Can't Help It:
    • Dado uses his masculinity as an excuse for hitting on both Insiang and her mother.
    • Bebot uses male urges as an excuse earlier about fondling Insiang inside the movie theater.
  • Idiot Ball: Tonya chose to believe Dado's blatant lies instead of her daughter who she had just seen obviously hurt and crying.
  • In the Back: Tonya kills Dado by stabbing him in the back with sewing shears.
  • I Regret Nothing: Tonya insists that she does not regret killing Dado. Having been horrible to her daughter and not being able to be with her anymore due to being in jail however...
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Insiang asks Dado to beat up Bebot, as payback for breaking his promise of running away together.
  • Manipulative Bastard
    • Dado threatens Bebot to stay away from Insiang and manages to turn Insiang's words against her mother when she insists that Dado slept with her.
    • Insiang becomes this after her Face–Heel Turn and uses Dado's obsession with her to do her bidding until she decides to have her mother get rid of him for her... which was also done by deliberately messing with her temper and make her lose her mind.
  • Only One Name: Insiang, Tonya, Dado, Bebot, et al.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Insiang may have come out on top but by the end of it, no one is happy.
  • R-Rated Opening: The first shot of the film is of a pig hanging upside-down having its jugulars sliced open by Dado followed by its (and many other pigs') undignified journey through the slaughterhouse. It really establishes the gritty nature of the story.
  • Rage-Breaking Point: Tonya overhears Dado's plan to elope with Insiang since he has now found a job so she grabs a sharp object from a pile of clothes and stabs Dado repeatedly while Insiang watches, slightly unfazed.
  • Rape and Revenge: After Dado rapes Insiang, she sets out to get revenge and manipulates her mother Tonya into killing him. Unique in that the target of the revenge is not only the rapist.
  • Rape as Drama: Insiang is raped one night by Dado, and her mother blames her for it. The continued anguish eventually forces her to get back at them.
  • Tears of Remorse: Tonya who is imprisoned, possibly for life for murdering Dado, watches her daughter leave her for the last time with tears in her eyes.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Insiang uses her mother's short temper to get her so mad at Dado that she would kill him.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: The slums of Tondo, Manila.