Khavn de la Cruz's Kommander: Kulas: Ang Kaisa-isang Konsiyerto ng Kagila-gilalas na Kombo ni Kommander Kulas at ng Kanyang Kawawang Kalabaw sa Walang Katapusang Kalsada ng Kamyas (Kommander Kulas: The One and Only Concert of the Amazing Combo of Kommander Kulas and his Poor Carabao in the Long and Unwinding Road of Kamyas), or Kommander Kulas for much-needed brevity, relies strongly on pattern. After a prologue which details the existential account of the titular character's death in storybook fashion, Khavn spends little time to force his audience into a near-torturous cycle of depraved art, from spoken poetry of varying degrees of menace and perversion serving as soundtrack to several images (the most shocking of which has a heavyset woman sitting on a plate as if defecating), to long takes of Kommander Kulas riding his carabao in lush landscapes, to public domain Tagalog love songs serenading images of a makeshift grand piano stationed in different decrepit locations in the city.
Khavn has done the same patterned film before. In Paalam Aking Bulalakaw (Goodbye My Shooting Star, 2006), he documents a date with a girl (Meryll Soriano) while cycling through love poems and love songs. Where the pattern in Paalam Aking Bulalakaw complemented the Khavn's unabashed meanderings on romantic love, in Kommander Kulas, the pattern only adds to the burden of the film, weighing the already weighty subject matter with the malady of predictability.
However, Khavn is not concerned with providing surprises or shocking twists. Right from the start, he duly warns his audience of Kommander Kulas' demise leading from his unresolved search for his heart which led to his meet-ups with various loves and their human representations. It seems that Khavn's goal is to wear his audience off, to make them feel the exhausting repercussions of a hopeless search for a hopeless heart. In that sense, perspective and agenda, Khavn more than succeeds.
Khavn is more than a prolific filmmaker who makes three to four feature length films and even more short films per year. He is also very unpredictable. His films, most of which bear the signature of being sensible and sometimes logical despite the palpable chaos of their creation, attempt to dignify the common vices of the inevitable ease of digital filmmaking and are most of the time, very successful at it. Mostly unplanned with only an idea that is probably germinated from random discussions over rounds of San Miguel beer in one of Manila's artists' nooks and probably a day or two to shoot and materialize the idea, Khavn's films, despite the obviousness of the probable ease and welcomed carelessness in their production, range from absolutely fun to curiously profound. Interestingly, with Kommander Kulas, it seems the hardworking director has unwittingly chosen profundity over fun.
(Cross-published in Lessons from the School of Inattention)