The movie tells the life story of Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines. It covers his life from his childhood to his execution at the hands of the Spanish forces occupying the Philippines in the late 19th century. We are also thrown into the world of Rizal's novels. So we get a glimpse of how he viewed Filipino society under the Spanish heal.
One note, this movie is not for the faint of heart. There are graphic depictions of violence and even torture. The opening few scenes depict some episodes from Rizal's novels. In one a Catholic priest rapes a Filipina. I guess I now know where the Mestizo (i.e., mixed blood) class came from in the Philippines. In the other scene a Catholic priest beats a child for alleged stealing. Strong stuff, and it made me wonder how the Catholic Church could possibly retain any power in the country, if this is what the national hero thought about it.
The movie introduces us to the life of subjugation of the Filipino people under the rule of the Spanish friars. From the execution of three Filipino priests in 1872 for alleged subversion to the harsh and unequal treatment of Filipino students in the schools, this film is a stinging indictment of Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines. We see scenes both from Rizal's actual life but also from his imagination.
As a young man, Jose is sent to study in Spain. This is a plan hatched by his brother Paciano. Jose will write and do everything in his power to bring to the attention of the world the abuses of Spanish power in the Philippines, while Paciano will protect the Rizal family at home and keep up the struggle against Spanish rule. Jose excels in his studies as a medical student at Madrid University and eventually earns a degree as an ophthalmic surgeon. Meantime, he becomes involved with a group of radical Filipino students who also seek to end the Spanish abuses in their country. He eventually has a falling out with the student group as he realizes