Sang Pemula by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

So, after months of procrastinating, as well as distraction from my guilty pleasure of Amanda Scott’s Scottish historical romance, I finally finished my reading on Sang Pemula, another masterpiece by Pramoedya. Literally means “The Pioneer,” Sang Pemula is a non-fiction works containing a biography of Raden Mas Tirto Adhi Soerjo, the father of Indonesian press, and dubbed, if not by Pramoedya alone, as the one who sow the seed of Indonesian national movement in the early 20th century.

If you’ve read, or familiar already with Pram’s famous masterpiece the Buru Quartet, it might delight you to know that this is book is the very biography of the person who became the inspiration of Pram’s main character, Minke, in his famous quartet. I sure got very excited when I found this book in my aunt’s bookshelf. I never thought this book even existed!

Due to the lack of available, preserved articles and sources, most are far from intact and in good condition, Pramoedya could only seemed to gather so much.

The R. M. Tirto Adhi Soerjo (or also famous as T. A. S.) really existed in the late 19th century of Indonesia. Born in 1880, he was of a Javanese noble family who went so far to a medical school only to drop out later. Already writing series of articles from the early age, he started out as a journalist and later published and circulated his own newspaper. His articles were known to consist of harsh critics and very bold, creating a lot of enemies, especially from the government he definitely opposed. His newspapers were the first to use Malay, and amongst these were Soenda Berita (1903-1905), Medan Prijaji (1907), and Poetri Hindia (1908). Too modern for his time, he stuck me as not only open minded and critical, he was as well a humanitarian and feminist. However, just as depicted in the last part of Pram’s Buru Quartet, Rumah Kaca (House of Glass), those opposing him were determined to shut him up and erased his name of the history. In some ways, this might be true. Not as many people know him as they do Ki Hajar Dewantara despite his just-as-important contribution. And even though the Indonesian government finally acknowledged him and his effortless works, even named him the father of Indonesian modern press, Pram clearly thought that he hadn’t got the recognition and reward he’d deserved.

The book includes several news articles and opinion written by T. A. S. himself, as well as two short stories (one with missing parts) and one incomplete serial–all fiction works. Those works, along with his biography provides us many insights of the life of people, especially the oppressed natives, at that time.

What really interests me, as well as amazes me is the language used in the book, varying from the older style dating back from the late 19th century up to the ones from not so long ago during Pram’s era. I can’t believe how fast the language is evolving that even though Pram’s tried to simplify some of the words and sentences, it struck me that I still find the language used by Pram (which means that it’s also the Indonesian language used during the time Pram compiled the book) very different from the ones I’m seeing and using right now, and it’s only with difficulty that I finally grasp partly, if not fully, what each of the sentences mean.

All in all, I’d highly recommend this book to those who are a fan of Pram’s works, as well as those interested in Indonesian linguistics and history. But this book is a very serious reading that I actually feel like procrastinating once in a while whenever I’m in need of a lighter reading.

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Habibie & Ainun (2012)

This is a biographical movie telling the love story of the former Indonesian president, B. J. Habibie and his one and only wife, the late Hasri Ainun Besari (later Ainun Habibie). Adapted from a book with the same title, written by Habibie himself, this movie takes the audience into a roller-coaster of emotion revolving around their life. Going back to the days when they were together in high school, the movie portrays further their life onwards up to the day Ainun passed away, which means this include the day they got married, moved to Germany, and then went back to Indonesia and the day Habibie became the vice president and later, the 3rd president of Indonesia.

“Habibie & Ainun” Movie Poster

The lead actor, Reza Rahadian, is one of the main reason I so badly wanted to see this movie. I saw him acted before in three different movies which I’ve come to like: Alangkah Lucunya (Negeri Ini), 3 Hati 2 Dunia 1 Cinta, and Tanda Tanya, and his performance in this movie haven’t change my opinion of how good he is as an actor. I never really saw him act like he was in the movie–he became a completely different person, with a different attitude and even the way he altered his intonation and articulation when he speak is brilliantly meticulous. Of course, I might be clouded by me being a fan of his already, but I do think it deserves an applause.

As for the lead actress, the prominent Indonesian actress Bunga Citra Lestari played Habibie’s wife, Ainun. I believe that Bunga (also known with her initial: BCL) is a very good and talented actress, and she did played Ainun wonderfully. My favorite scene is probably (SPOILER ALERT!) the one when she got homesick during the early years of her marriage with Habibie, and she tried to hold it back inside, but when her husband asked, she finally spilled and cried. Another one is the scenes when she got diagnosed with ovarian cancer and finally hospitalized. Probably one of the most touching scene throughout the movie, we could see a very strong connection between Habibie and his wife when he got anxious waiting outside the operation room and insisted to get inside and accompanied his wife because he thought she might be worried about him. Then when he finally got in after the operation, he asked gently what got Ainun worried sick. She weakly shook her head when he asked whether she felt any pain (there’s one more question but I forgot), but she finally nodded her head when he asked whether she’d been worried about him instead. Then he reassured her that he’d taken his meds (he was diagnosed with tuberculosis early in the movie, when he was still young). Most certainly, this got me and the girls sitting next to me sobbing badly. And the way BCL depicted Ainun’s last days on bed, when she got very sick that she could not talk and had to struggled hard to merely lift her hands was really touching and brought me into tears. However, I don’t think this movie has really shown the extent of what BCL could do with her act. For me, at least, it’s not enough.

Reza Rahadian as Habibie & BCL as Ainun

One thing that got me pretty disappointed is the lack of a full portrayal of the time when Habibie got involved in politics and then elected as the vice-president to the late Soeharto. All we see is Habibie got home one day after the night before promising Ainun a cruise trip, telling her that they might have to delay that because he’s gonna be the vice president of Indonesia. Of course, later I remembered that this is a story of both Habibie AND Ainun, not just Habibie himself, but still, I was hoping they would show more of his journey of becoming the vice president. But again, I haven’t really read the book itself, Habibie & Ainun, so I don’t really know whether Habibie also wrote a lot about that one as well or not.

But overall, I really enjoy the movie, and despite usually preferring other movies than a cliché and cheesy romance, I’d definitely looking forward to buy the DVD later. …or maybe I again got clouded by this idea that no matter how cheesy these romances are, they did happened for real.

I’m not sure whether this is a movie guys would want to see because I know several guys who did watched it and liked it, and I also know those who lacked interest in watching it (which made it so hard for me to find companion to watch it), but I’d definitely recommend this movie.

FYI, this movie is delivered in two different languages: Bahasa Indonesia and Germany, but movies like this usually got me in doubt of how good the foreign language is in the movie (in this case, the Germany language), so I don’t know whether the Germany spoken by Indonesians in the movie a natural, good Germany or a broken one instead, but considering the frequency of the language spoken (which is a lot), I’d assumed that it has to be quite good, at least.

P.S. Oh, and this is definitely a tearjerker.

Lewat Djam Malam (After the Curfew) (1954)

Lewat Djam Malam (After the Curfew) is actually a 1954 Indonesian movie which was played in the Cannes Film Festival last May, and was restored by the Italian L’immagine Ritrovata, funded, not even by the Indonesian government, but instead by the National Museum of Singapore and the World Cinema Foundation, based on an article I read in The Jakarta Globe.

This is an old movie, even older than my parents, so why oh why, instead of making a newer version of the film, they insisted on restoring it instead? This has sure piqued my curiosity.

A. N. Alcaff as Iskandar

The movie summarize the story where idealism meets reality as Iskandar, who, as a soldier, once fought for the Indonesian revolution, hoping that the country he fought for would become a better country, which would provide a better future for its citizens, ended up in a broken heart as he found out that apparently the country turned out to be nothing at all like what he’d imagined. First of all, as he returned to a society life in Bandung, West Java, and stayed at his fiancé’s house along with her family, he found that readjusting to a life post-independence wasn’t as easy as he thought. Initially he told his fiancé, Norma, that all he wanted was to live a quiet life in the suburbs as a peaceful farmer with Norma by his side. But as he started his first job in the governor’s office due to his future father-in-law’s pressure, he started to question himself. Whether his very definition of his country actually exist at all. Whether his fight back then during the revolution was really a fight for the cause of the country he loves. Then he met his friends who used to serve with him in the army, and he became even more brokenhearted finding out that the fight he fought was merely to fulfill his the personal ambition of his superior, Gunawan to get his hands on wealth and fortune. Iskandar had suspected all along as he saw how the figure he used to honor and follow became a part of a corrupted capitalists. And despite trying her best to understand him, Iskandar didn’t think Norma ever understood exactly his grief of the nation’s fate going down, because Norma came from a bourgeois family, belonged to the upper class society, who were not familiar with despair, hunger and tarnished wishes. On the other hand, when he met Laila, a prostitute kept by his former subordinate in the army, Puja, he saw the suffering of the low class society as they could do nothing but hope for a better life they’d never cease to wish for, yet in the end, the hope stays merely as a hope, an unfulfilled one.

Laila

As the frustrated Iskandar tried to resolve this problem and agitation on his own, his own fate was determined toward the end of the movie.

“Siapa yang tidak kuat melawan kelampauan akan hancur.” ~Gafar, Lewat Djam Malam

“Those who cannot fight the past would vanish.” ~Gafar, After the Curfew (roughly translated by me)

“Lewat Djam Malam” old movie poster, taken from Wikipedia

Starring A. N. Alcaff as Iskandar and Netty Herawati and directed by Usmar Ismail, I think this movie is totally a must-watch one, despite me being put off now and then by Laila’s brief-but-constant singing in a few scenes (I mean, they didn’t have Sinetron back then, right?). I agree with the review I read in the Hey Diaspora! magazine that the movie deserves more attention, because of its first class quality in the themes, plot, and act. Of course it’s incomparable in the matter of cinematography and sound effects (it’s a restored movie, come on!) with the modern-day movies as they did admit that the restoration took “great pains,” but overall, I was glad that I decided to watch the movie. Yet despite all that, there were hardly 20 audiences in the theater when despite it being only the 2nd day it was played in Surabaya (and only one theater out of fifteen), and less than a week after I watched it, it was no longer played when I checked the 21 Cineplex website. Too bad. I love every part of the movie (yes, despite the brief-but-constant singing), the story, the act (how deeply explored each character was, in my opinion), the language–oh yes, the language! The movie used a more formal, Malay Indonesian, or more of what I’d like to refer to as the Transatlantic Indonesian. There are many terms and expressions unfamiliar to the Javanese-Indonesian used around me nowadays, such as, “Mengekori sarung kebaya,” (means chasing women; “sarung kebaya” refers to the outfit worn by women at that time), or “Kita mesti gasak semua penghalang” (means “We must banish all the obstacles,” but “gasak” is a word seldomly used in the contemporary Indonesian now, as far as I know). And I can’t even believe that I’ve forgotten the existence of the word “Semampai.” I remember getting really excited as the movie started, seeing so many Indonesian words in the movie credits (the verb “Mempersembahkan” instead of “Presents,” “Tjerita Asli dan Skenario” instead of “Original Story and Scenario,”Iringan Musik oleh” instead of “Music Accompaniments by,” or “Produksi” instead of “Production”), and all of them are written using the old Indonesian Spelling (“Tj” for “C”, “Dj” for “J,” also “J” for “Y”). Yes, yes, I’m such a nerd, but those are words and language that I don’t think I ever find in the modern day movie nowadays (as we now become more and more of an English mania).

As for the title itself, “Lewat Djam Malam” which is translated into “After the Curfew”, although I kind of think “Past Curfew” might fit better, refers to the curfew first pointed out at the beginning of the story, which was 10 PM, and the scenes occurred after the set curfew at that time.

I kept thinking that I would definitely go and watch the movie for the second time, but now, knowing that it’s not even played anymore, I suppose I’d go for the DVD instead. Yes, it’s worth-watching, and yes, now I see why they went through “great pains” to restore an old movie such as this.

* * *

“Kepada mereka jang telah memberikan sebesar-besar pengorbanan njawa mereka

Supaya kita jang hidup pada saat ini dapat menikmat segala kelezatan buah kemerdekaan…..

Kepada mereka jang tidak menuntut apapun buat diri mereka sendiri.”

~Lewat Djam Malam

“To those who have given the biggest sacrifice in the form of life

So that we who live today could have freedom and all that come with it…..

To those who did not pursue their personal desire.”

~After the Curfew, roughly translated by me (they did have the translation in the movie, perhaps a more proper one)

Soegija: A Movie About Humanity

I’ve been meaning to write this post ever since I watched the movie on the 8th of June, but of course, procrastination always gets the better of me, so here I am, finally writing this post. (SPOILER ALERT!)

The title of this movie is taken from the name of the first Javanese Catholic pastor in the former Indonesia (known as the Dutch East Indies) who was later named as one of Indonesian national hero, Albertus Soegijapranata. Soegija is said to be his nickname. Nevertheless, the movie itself is not actually a biographical movie about him, but instead, it involves around the life of multiple character around Soegija. There were at least about 7 notable characters, including Sogija (played by Nirwan Dewanto) himself, each with their own life turmoils in the midst of a chaotic country, looking for an identity of a nation.

Nirwan Dewanto as Soegija
Hendrick and Mariyem

There were Mariyem, a Catholic nurse (played by Annisa Hertami Kusumastuti) who was entangled in a search of her brother and the pursue of a Dutch reporter falling in love with her, Hendrick (played by Wouter Braaf). Meanwhile, Hendrick himself was torn between his love for Mariyem, passion and pity towards Indonesians’ fate intertwined between one colonialism over another colonialism (the movie moves chronologically forward from the end of the Dutch colonialism, Japanese afterwards, and then the Indonesian independence, and lastly the Dutch military aggression post-Independence day in order to re-colonized Indonesia), as well as his loyalty towards his own country. His friendship with a Dutch soldier, Robert (played by Wouter Zweers) didn’t help either as Robert is cruel and racist towards Indonesian, thinking that he’s way superior than Indonesian (which was a typical mindset at that time). He always looked down on Indonesian thinking of them as nothing but people who ought to be ruled by his country. One scene stands out, though. It was during the post-Independence time, when the Dutch was trying to take over Indonesia once again, and he searched the citizens’ houses to look for Indonesian soldiers, a native man didn’t want to move from where he stood even when Robert and his soldier threatened to kill him because they thought he was trying to hide something or someone. Only when they finally shot him did they realize the native man was merely trying to protect his baby. Then Robert approached the baby, and when I thought he was about to kill him, instead he took the baby into his arms, and then cuddled him. When the baby was crying, he was trying to calm him, and kept on doing so whilst walking out of the house. That scene really touched me, as it shows how someone portrayed as cruel as Robert is also shown to have a gentle, soft side within him.

Wouter Zweers as Robert
Olga Lidya in Soegija

Then there’s Ling Ling (played by Andrea Reva), who got caught up in the midst of chaos in the country as well, as her mom (played by Olga Lidya) was taken away by the Japanese as they took over Indonesia in the 2nd World War. She and her grandfather (played by Henky Solaiman) were forced to take refuge in the Catholic church, and this was where their fates crossed over with other characters in the movie since the church was where everybody else sought comfort and protection as Soegija shielded the people from colonialists. And that was also where Mariyem cared and tended the locals and at the same time tried to look for his missing brother amongst the war victims. Hendrick was also there, trying to help the people and reporting as well, including trying to win Mariyem’s heart. The first time they met, Hendrick called Mariyem as Maria, but she refused and insisted to be called Mariyem. By the end of the movie, though, she addressed herself as Maria. I suppose this would mean that she’d come to love Hendrick, eh?

Another notable character is a Japanese comrade, Nobuzuki (played by Nobuyuki Suzuki), who was not free from conflict as well. Once the Japanese ruled, he captured the Dutch soldiers and killed them, and many times local people also got involved. Every things related to the Dutch were banished and forbidden, and there was this one scene where he met a bunch of musician and prohibited them to play any western song. Then after he asked them whether they could play any other pieces, they played Bengawan Solo, and he grew fond of it. Later I found out from this blog that Bengawan Solo is a famous song in Japan. It is a beautiful classic, indeed.

The main character himself didn’t really stand out to me. I mean, it was clear that he was trying to protect the people as a pastor and as an Indonesian as well. Since he was an important person, the people looked up to him and listened to what he said. And as a pastor, he was having the privilege to do certain things that others couldn’t do. For example, when both the Dutch and the Javanese were trying to take the church down, he defended the church because it was actually a refugee for the poor and starving citizens. And he cared for the people. When people were trying to give him comfort (since, of course, he’s no ordinary person), he told everyone to care for the people first, and not him. One line that really touches me is when he said that whenever there’s food, pastors and evangelists are supposed to be the last to eat and they are also supposed to be the ones to starve when food is scarce. Touché. Then during the aggression by the Dutch, he seek recognition for Indonesian independence from Vatican right away, and Vatican was amongst the first countries to acknowledge and admit that Indonesia is one free country.

The movie itself is very good and vivid portrayal of Indonesia at that time. We know that many, many people lived under poverty at that time, and many times they got killed for no reason. The movie gives a very good depiction on how difficult that time must seemed, and the cinematography is awesome. At least that’s what I think. There’s one scene where people were marching at either dawn or dusk (I couldn’t tell the difference, sorry) and it shows the silhouette of people lining up. It was so beautiful.

Yet, I hate to admit that the movie itself looks like nothing but a documentary with a very good cinematography to me. Watching the movie from beginning to end, I felt like I was merely shown an event over another event in history chronologically. It lacks heavy conflicts and climax, and if it’s line graph, it would be a flat line to me. Of course, this is merely what I think and it might differ greatly with others’ interpretation. Despite showing how significant Soegija’s role at that time, his image throughout the movie felt to me like someone so far above the people, where, in contrast with the citizens’ struggle with the situation at that time in the movie, he looked well-fed, healthy and always at peace to me. I mean, if he was fighting for the people, sure he couldn’t look that good! He was mostly siting, writing, walking around, thinking, and constantly in comfort behind the walls and under the roofs. There was even a scene where he got his servant cut his hair while he was reading the news paper, and they looked so relaxed talking to each other and even joking around. It was completely different with the depiction of other characters’ conflicts.

Another thing is the act. I mean, they acted well, but nothing too wow to me, except for Wouter Zweers’ act as Robert, perhaps, because his portrayal of a loony, cruel, yet somehow with little compassion left in him looked so convincing to me. And some scenes looked too staged for me, like when Mariyem was trying to sent the Dutch soldiers away from the hospital when they were looking for Indonesian soldiers. As Soegija pointed out, she told the soldiers that everybody in the hospital were patients, not soldiers or anything else, and as a nurse, she and the doctors ought to do their job that is to care for them. Then suddenly she simply crouched, on her knees, and tending an old woman lying sick on the floor, yet that old woman barely did anything significant. She looked like she was sleeping to me, so what on earth did she crouched for, out of the blue? Or when Ling Ling was praying in front of Mary’s statue, and then out of nowhere, she just slowly (veeeeery slowly, and, of course, very dramatically) turned around, only to found her mother was standing behind her. Wow, did she have a sixth sense? The next thing that happened was even more dramatic as Ling Ling and her mother were running toward each other, and there was this slow motion until they finally hugged, cried, and laughed.

Again, that’s just my opinion.

Nevertheless, I think the movie is worth-watching. What really excites me throughout the movie is how each character switched from one language to another. I mean, the Dutch were speaking Dutch, and sometimes speak Indonesian a little, and most Indonesian in the movie speak Javanese, and the Japanese speak Japanese. It was really fun watching how the movie depicts a radio announcer reporting events in a high level Javanese (we called it “Krama Inggil”, a Javanese language used only when talking to noblemen, royalties, and elder people; see, Javanese has three different kinds of language for talking to people with different social class and status–the Ngoko, Krama Madya, and Krama Inggil). Since the movie was set in Central Java and more specifically Semarang and other regions near Semarang, the dialects used are mostly of Semarang dialect (I didn’t say Central Javanese dialects since the dialect from my hometown which is also located in Central Java is completely different).

All in all, this movie was not one without controversy. Even before it got premiered on June 7th, a group of a hard-line Moslem, famously known as FPI–Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defender Front)–(and news about them never fail to piss me off) protested that this is a Christian movie and meant to change people’s belief. Even Garin Nugroho (the director) commented that this is a movie about humanity. Whatever it is, the protest itself sounds ridiculous to me, for it sounds like nothing but FPI people’s insecurities that Moslem people would convert into Christians or Catholics. What the hell is that if not insecurities?

The Raid: Redemption (Serbuan Maut)

I’ve been noticing (and waiting impatiently) for the movie The Raid, ever since I saw my cousin posted its trailer on his facebook wall. I was awed by it, and even more surprised that this movie had gone international, going to release worldwide. Well, I’m not really that devoted to Indonesian movie industry until after I watched Sang Penari (The Dancer), so you could later confront me for this next sentence: I knew that it’s not the first time Indonesian movie goes international. I don’t really own a complete list of Indonesian movies which have gone worldwide, and what I could think of so far is only Pasir Berbisik (Whispering Sands), which has gotten about five awards in movie festivals, such as the Asia Pacific Film Festival, Singapore International Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival and Brisbane International Film Festival–and even up to now, I still haven’t watched the entire movie. I’ve seen it played and watched it for a while in one Indonesian channel once, but didn’t finished watching it eventually. I don’t remember whether it’s because I got bored in the end or because I had to do something else which apparently was more important and urgent than watching Dian Sastro and Christine Hakim.

Anyway, this movie was previously known as Serbuan Maut in Bahasa Indonesia, or just The Raid internationally, but as he explained in his blog dedicated for the movie, Gareth Evans and his team had to make a bit change in it in order for the movie to enter the United States of America. (Seriously, Americans, what the hell is wrong with ‘The Raid’??) Now it’s known officially as The Raid: Redemption. Gareth Evans (the director) also said that this probably is better since he was considering a trilogy–The Raid being the first part of the Trilogy.

The director, Gareth Evans, is apparently a Welsh, and seems like a big fan of Indonesian martial arts, known as Pencak Silat, or merely Silat. Other than guessing this based on all reviews I read from Times to some blogs reviewing this movie, I also assumed this based on watching a movie from the same director, collaborating with the same actor, Iko Uwais, called Merantau. In the one that I downloaded, it has the title Warrior, and I’m not really clear whether this supposed to be the English title for the movie, but the word ‘merantau’ itself doesn’t mean ‘warrior’ at all in English. In Bahasa Indonesia, ‘merantau’ is when you move from your parents’ lovely and comfy house, to a faraway places (mostly big cities) in order to get a better job, to make money, so when you return home, you could give back and repay what your parents had given to raise you and make you a decent person. The process of going away (and being far away from homeland) is called ‘merantau.’ (Seriously English, do you have words for that?) Now, the movie Merantau is also a full action movie. The storyline centers on a guy named Yuda, a guy from Minangkabau, West Sumatera, who went ‘merantau’ to the capital, Jakarta, to teach Pencak Silat to people there. That sure is such a naive and and nice goal for such a young man, but as he met another passenger in the bus on his way to Jakarta, the dream seems like too good to be true. After seeing a young beautiful girl being physically harassed on the street, Yuda ended up protecting the girl instead. Little did Yuda know at that time that the girl was actually one of the victim of human-trafficking business, led by a hot-headed European businessman, Ratger (Mads Koudal). The movie, just like The Raid, is of course, all full-action.

Merantau Movie Poster

Now, as much as I love the action as well as the beauty of the kicks, punches and the blood spattered captured magnificently by Evans, I hate to admit that I’m not a huge fan of the movie. The storyline is very simple, and quite predictable to me. But in terms of action, it blew me away. Super awesomeness.

Well, I’m not here to talk about Merantau, of course, but in one review I once read (I forgot which one, and I’m too lazy to track it back just so I could put the link. I would probably do this later), The Raid is said to be a prequel of Merantau.

It could probably make a perfect sense, especially since the main character and his estranged brother in the movie is played by the same actors in both movies, with the exact same relationship in their roles, except for the different names for both characters.

Iko Uwais

First of all, Iko Uwais’ character in The Raid: Redemption is called Rama, not Yuda. And this movie starts with the scene where Rama was waking up early, preparing himself by practicing his martial arts, and shalat (Islamic prayer) before he finally woke his pregnant wife, to say goodbye. Of course he said that he’ll be back soon.

Then we’re led to a truck where it’s filled with special cops (described as the Indonesian SWAT team) who were  preparing themselves to ambush a drug lord, Tama Riyadi (played by Ray Sahetapy), living in a 30-storey apartment, which is filled with criminals in most rooms.

Ray Sahetapy

Sneaking their way in to the apartment, they quietly kill and slay the criminals in each room, room by room, and floor by floor. It seems like everything was going really well.

Until they reached the 6th floor, where their existence is finally uncovered.

As the drug lord noticed them through one of his surveillance cameras (the building was apparently filled with cameras everywhere), he told the residents to welcome this unwanted visitors and “have fun.” The task already seems like an impossible task by then, and the future of those SWAT team seems so predictable.

The handsome Joe Taslim, who apparently is also a Judo athlete. Work that six-pack, Joe!

As already suspected by the leader of this ill-fated team, Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim), the team was actually sent for a suicide mission, being a part of a black-ops, and the backups promised to come earlier was nothing but a fake promise. They’re on their own.

As the team breaks and getting separated from each other, Rama (Iko Uwais) also needs to fight in order to survive–and to find his estranged brother, Andi (played by the charming Donny Alamsyah), who turns out is the right hand of Tama the drug lord. In order to do this, eventually he would later fight Tama’s deadly brutal and cruel hitman, known as Mad Dog (played by Yayan Ruhian, also co-coreographed the fighting in the movie with Iko himself).

Donny (also spelled as 'Doni) Alamsyah
Yayan Ruhian

Well, I’m not gonna give you any more spoiler, of course, but I hope my summary tease you enough to buy the ticket and watch the movie yourself in the theater.

Anyway, other than what I’m going to write next, the movie itself has received 3 awards internationally as well as positive critics.

I was actually worried about watching this first since I remember that I don’t really like Merantau. I don’t want this to be another cheesy, all action movie with meaningless expressions and acts. I mean, Iko Uwais (and Donny Alamsyah, hahaha) is definitely a good actor, but there’s not really much exploration in terms of storyline and acting. What he did in 90% of the movie is kick, punch, and show off his skill in Pencak Silat. And boy, isn’t he charming. It’s very obvious that Iko is definitely the man when it comes to Silat. But other than the fighting, Merantau is a cheesy romance, and towards the end of the movie, I was so bored that I immediately deleted the movie as soon as I finished watching.

But apparently, there’s not even 1% element of romance in The Raid, which probably lead to a conclusion that I may not be a huge fan of romance, really (says the woman who’ve read Amanda Scott’s Border Wedding twice and watched Ever After more than 5 times).

Anyway, as you’d probably read in most reviews (if you did read them, hopefully after watching the movie, not before), the movie is purely action, that without the action, it would probably be… super suck.

If you’re the kind of person who’s looking for a meaningful, heavily-themed, and serious movie like A Dangerous Method or Sang Penari (The Dancer), and not a fan of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan or Rush Hour, you’d probably be disappointed.

But if you’re crazy about the French movie Banlieue 13 and its sequel, adore Cyril Raffaeli and can’t get enough of Jet Li, this movie is definitely for you.

The movie does reminds me a bit of Banlieue 13 with all its action and plot, although, of course, the storyline is different, along with its setting, character, and style, but I do think they both have similar theme, especially towards the ending of the movie. I’m pretty curious about the sequel already.

Which would mean that I love the movie. Of course this would probably be a contradiction, since I already stated that I don’t like meaningless movie, with cheesy romance and such. But this one does not have a bit of romance in it, and despite its full action scene from beginning to end, again, I have to applaud Gareth Evans for making all the fighting looks so breathtaking, with the detail of each movement, capturing how Rama takes down all his opponents one by one. Oh, and slow motion effects, especially when the leader, Sergeant Jaka fired his riffle is just too awesome to miss. Despite being a very violent movie, I did managed to finish my large-size popcorn throughout the movie, while at the same time, watching Rama and Mad Dog slit their opponents’ throats. Of course, watching with me, you would need to bear the swearing and cursing which I shouted almost every time someone fall, or got bombed, or stabbed brutally, or when Rama awesomely took down his opponent. I guess everybody’s adrenaline got pumped as we got too excited watching all the never ending action because one time, when Rama amazingly took down one of the bad guy so skillfully, the audience around me were clapping their hands, applauding Iko’s mastery in his Silat. A guy sitting next to me was watching the movie with his peers, and he kept praising Iko’s skills, commenting his expertise on Silat with awe.

I do agree with one review I read which says that other than the action, one irrational thing about the movie, more specifically about the main character Rama, is the unrealistic stamina he has. I mean, Rama has been kicked, thrown, punched, despite punching and kicking himself, and fallen down several stories down out the window before landing on a kind of balcony thingy on a lower floor, yet he never seem to show exhaustion or tiredness and still managed to fight till the very end of the movie. I remember the same thing also happen in the movie Merantau. I mean, I know that this tireless trait is one thing that we are always looking for in every hero of martial arts movie. It’s what we always look for in legends such a Bruce Lee, Jet Li, or even the manga character Chinmi from Kung-Fu Boy. But even such legends never seem to own this trait. At some point, they would lose their power and energy, after fighting non-stop for quite a long time. Yet Rama (and Yuda in Merantau) appears to be some kind of superhuman with limitless energy. This might be something to think about for Gareth Evans for the next two sequels. Of course, the chance of him reading this is very little, but I’m hoping to see more of the storyline, and more down-to-earth, weakness, human-alike character for Rama in the so-called sequel, Berandal (meaning ‘thugs/brat’ in English).

Pierre Gruno

Another thing, perhaps, is the contradiction I found as the head of the operation, Lieutenant Wahyu (played by Pierre Gruno) complained to Sergeant Jaka for bringing rookie officers for such a dangerous operation (which is confusing–I mean, who would ever take rookies for that risky business? At the same time, it seems make sense since the operation is indeed, a suicide mission).

…but probably my Indonesian pride also created some biased arguments here, and perhaps explains why I really like this movie, because… it’s an Indonesian movie, for crying out loud! (Says the woman whose movie list is actually filled with Hollywood movies–oh, but I’ve been putting some Indonesian movies as well now.) Whichever it is, I’ve been considering to watch it for the second time. Perhaps this time, anyone would like to come with me?

Lobakan: Antologi Cerita Pendek (Kesenyapan Gemuruh Bali ’65)

I have no idea what ‘Lobakan’ means. I’ve checked both Google and Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian Dictionary) and found nothing about the word, but the words after the colon mean: “A compilation of short stories (The silenced thunderstorm of Bali in ’65).” The number 65 at the end of the title there refers to the year of 1965.

That is the title of the book that I just read.

*edited March 20, 2012 – Just found out from my grandpa that Lobakan is actually a Balinese term for lamp–the old, ancient, petromax lantern. (Doh, I’m such a fake Balinese!)

So, back in December, my grandpa gave me this book Lobakan after I shared with him my interest and findings on one of the darkest history of Indonesia about the PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia/The Communist Party of Indonesia). After getting enough courage to finally asked him about the incident, my grandpa decided to give me this book ‘if I’m interested.’ (He’s gotta be joking. Of course I’m interested!)

Just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a bit of background information based on my findings:

Soekarno, the first president of Indonesia, once proposed a political concept called as ‘Nasakom,’ which literally is an abbreviation of three words: ‘Nasionalisme’ (nationalism), ‘Agama’ (religion), and ‘Komunisme’ (Communism). This is the notion invented by Soekarno as a part of his vision to unite three big political parties existed in Indonesia at that time–PNI (Partai Nasional Indonesia/Indonesian National Party), Islamic parties which were divided into two parties at that time: Masyumi (Partai Majelis Syuro Muslimin Indonesia/Council of Indonesian Muslim Associations) and NU (Nahdlatul Ulama–a traditionalist Sunni Islam group), and PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia/The Communist Party of Indonesia)–in order to create harmonies between the three, and hence: peace amongst society.

By 1965, the member of the communist party had rapidly increased to 3 million people, and this worried the other 2 parties. Negative sentiments against Soekarno also grew as he supported and protected PKI, along with his ideology as it’s similar with his own.

Long story made short, the tension finally broke by September 30, 1965 as a movement called the 30 September Movement kidnapped several Indonesian war heroes in the army and killed them. Hence, General Soeharto (later the 2nd president of Indonesia) took control and provoked massacre of those known or suspected as “communist allies.” As the army publicly announced that the communists had killed Indonesian respected war heroes to encourage and approve the killings (of the PKI partisans), the Islamic forces did the same thing as they labeled those “communists” as atheists–a word that does not make any sense to most Indonesians, even until now, as Indonesia is not an “atheist country.”

Today it is speculated that the movement was actually a coup d’etat provoked by Soeharto and his army friends, backed by the CIA as they were afraid that Indonesia would become a strong ally to the communist (remember the Cold War?) and the PKI and its “allies” were merely victims of false accusations.

Of course, I might get this wrong, so feel free to correct me.

Here are the links to the sources (most of them, of course, will be Wikipedia):

*

Okay, enough about history. As my old man put it, “History is about perspective. The more you read, the more you find out.” Well said, grandpa!

Now, aside from the fact of who actually did what, or who was the bad guy, or even who was right or wrong, the thing is that the massacre killed a lot of innocent people. The army encouraged citizens to kill their neighbors, friends, and even family members without trial. And those were the people who might not even know what on earth PKI actually was. Most of them were actually those who merely hired to entertain the actual PKI members in one of their events/propagandas, or hired as a guard during a PKI meeting, and these people are poor peasants who, even if they actually owned the land or the field they were working on, they were really poor that eating rice was considered a luxury for them. Worse, they could even be poor farmers who didn’t even own a land, and merely working on a landowner’s land and gained almost nothing as a result of their hard work. Uneducated people, already suffered, and then suddenly stabbed or even tortured for reasons unknown to them.

Meanwhile, the religious parties (those who does not want to be associated with atheists) also made propaganda as they identify all communist partisans as atheists. They used folklore, myth, legend, belief, and they toyed with people’s faith to encourage the killings. They believed (and I am not referring to a specific kind of religion here because this includes all kinds of religion existed in Indonesia at that time) that killing communists was a religious duty. I am not a big fan of religion so of course I mock this idea. Were I lived during that time, I would definitely be assassinated.

Many believe that at least half a million people died during that time. In one article I read, people were getting used to seeing tons of dead bodies in the river, floating from one village to another village, spreading awful smells of rotten corpses. “No one wanted to risk coming out of the house,” said my grandpa. If I had not mistaken, the biggest killing happened in either East Java and Central Java or Bali, where they said that it was one step closer to become an anarchy.

These are the stories I read in Lobakan. All of them are, of course, fictionalized, because, as I read in the foreword, most of the victims interviewed (or talked to) tried so hard to erase those tragic events from their memories that most of them tried to deflect or even talked about something irrelevant instead of retelling the truth. In the end, no one actually ever find out what actually happened, and I doubt anyone will ever do.

One of my favorite stories is titled Monolog (Monologue), by Putu Fajar Arcana. It contains a speech of one of the victim of the massacre, who told his story of how he got involved with the PKI (although it is not explicitly stated whether he realized and fully acknowledged PKI at all) and later caught and killed. He said he came from a very poor family, whose field were taken by landowners and later were forced into a huge amount of debt by those landowners where in the end they had to work on the land they were supposed to own. The PKI held meetings talking about possibilities to get their land back, and as a poor peasant, how could they say no? The idea alone already seemed like ‘water from the moon’ (meaning impossible) to them. Later, of course, it costed him his life.

Another favorites are Warisan (Legacy) by Putu Satria Kusuma and Menanti Tantri (Waiting for Tantri) by Soeprijadi Tomodiharjo. The first one tells a story about Wayan Guru who was suspected as a PKI partisan and were hiding at his parents’ house while many people were waiting in front of the house, ready to ambush and slay him. His parents told the masses that Wayan Guru was away in Java, yet they waited. At the same time, Wayan Guru begged to see his son, Kadek, who stayed with his wife in his house near his parents’. He was determined to see Kadek, even if it would cost him his life, but his parents asked him to think it through, because death means missing his son’s 3 months ceremony, as well as watching him growing up.

The latter, Menanti Tantri tells a story about Made Arka Wiratma, an activist in fighting against illiteracy, who got a visit from a respectable figure: The governor of Bali, when he was lying sick on a hospital bed, suffering from malaria. His wife who accompanied him at that time was pregnant with his son. The governor suggested to name the unborn child Rai, taken from Balinese war hero: I Gusti Ngurah Rai. To them the visit was such a great honor. Little did they know that the governor was a leftist, and hence, a PKI partisan, as well as what the visit would cost them later.

What’s ironic is how I Gusti Agung Ayu Ratih put it in the foreword about how the government seemed so easily dismissed the tragedy and instead polished the so-called “The island of the gods” with monuments, malls, hotels and clubs to attract investors and tourists from around the world by making the native of this “island of gods” to work (I actually intent to use the work “slavery”) for these visitors who’d see Bali as, indeed, their “heaven on earth.” Try ask the people whether they think it’s a heaven on earth to them.

*

What? You didn’t expect me to write the complete stories as well as all of the short stories included, right? That wouldn’t be fair to the writers (says the person whose life is devoted to download free stuffs). >:D

I owe my grandpa for willing to give and share this with me, and I love the inscription he wrote on the first page of the book (I always love inscriptions on the first page of my book!) for me:

Sang Penari (The Dancer)

I promised myself that I would write something about the movie Sang Penari (The Dancer) which was inspired by Ahmad Tohari’s book titled Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk as soon as I finished the book.

And now I’ve finished the book. So here we go.

First of all, I usually try to discipline myself in a way that I ought to always read the book first before I watch the movie (of course, we’re talking about movies which are adapted from the book). But then Sang Penari came up, and I was so intrigued by the trailer alone. Then I met my friends and we talked about it. I was actually thinking: “Okay. Let’s gamble. I’ll ask her if she’d watch the movie with me, but if she–like me, insisted on reading the novel first, then I’d read the novel first no matter what. The movie came later.” Yet when I met my friends, my lips are locked. I don’t know. I feel like I ought not to gamble on this one. Or maybe I’m just too afraid of getting the answer and see how it’d turned out. (Really? Over a movie and a novel?–Yes, really really.)

Then something unexpected happened. My friend, out of nowhere, became the one who asked me, “Hey, do you remember the movie Sang Penari? Do you want to watch it togehter?”

I could hardly contain myself, really. The movie it is!!

So, anyway, here’s a bit of the trailer for you guys to see:

In brief, Sang Penari tells a story which revolves around a girl, which turned into a beautiful woman called Srintil. Srintil was born and raised in a small village in a rural area called Dukuh Paruk. This village is crucial as it becomes a place which pretty much shape Srintil’s destiny and personality.

There’s a tradition which has been going on and on for years in Dukuh Paruk, where they would always have an icon called Ronggeng. Put it in a simple way, Ronggeng is pretty much similar to Japanese Geisha. The difference here is the role of Ronggeng in the society especially the society of Dukuh Paruk. Ronggeng is the symbol of art and sex, I’d say. Ronggeng usually dances and performs in various villages and places during the day, and though the dance is pretty much a Javanese dance, but from what I’ve seen and read, I got the impression that the dance is more of an erotic dance, where people would shout remarks which refer to sex. The audience were also able to give tips to the Ronggeng by slipping money in the inside part of her clothes which cover her breasts. Later at night, men, who are mostly married, would pay as much as they could to have sex with her. Surprisingly, their wives would not mind at all since they believe that after their husband have sex with the Ronggeng, their husband would be able to give them offsprings. There’s this one scene where a housewife picked up her husband, and thanked Srintil the Ronggeng then expressed her wish that she now hope she could get pregnant again.

Srintil had been dreaming to become a Ronggeng all her life, so when she finally became a Ronggeng, she was really excited. There’s only one problem: Rasus. Rasus is her childhood friend and later became her lover. At least until she finally became a Ronggeng. To think logically, who could stand having your girl friend becoming a public’s “property” anyway? So Rasus fled the village and joined the army, leaving Srintil broken hearted.

Basically, the movie is a love story between Rasus and Srintil who ended up getting caught up in the midst of the chaos of the 30 September movement. Srintil and all her friends and relatives in Dukuh Paruk ended up suffering in a concentration camp for  suspected communists while Rasus is a part of the army who put people in the camp. He was tormented between choosing to follow orders as a soldier or to follow his heart in Dukuh Paruk. He ended up going from camp to camp looking for Srintil though. Did they finally reunited and get the happy ending? Well, do you really want spoilers?

Now, the book.

My curiosity was pumped after watching the movie. And I’m getting even more excited as soon as I found out that I could get a 20% off in the bookstore if I purchased the book with the movie ticket. So I called the bookstore. After making sure that I’d get the 20% off, I bought the book. (Okay fine, it’s only 20%, but it could actually save me a meal, believe me. It’s worth it!)

Now, one thing you must know is that this newer version of Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk (the cover above) is actually a 3 in 1 version of a trilogy. The whole movie itself is actually inspired by the whole trilogy.

The first part of the trilogy is titled, of course, Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk, followed by the second part of the trilogy: Lintang Kemukus Dini Hari, and the last part: Jantera Bianglala.

The decision to name the whole 3 in 1 version as Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk is not a bad one, I guess, since the story itself focus indeed on the Ronggeng.

Reaching the first five pages of the book, I thought, “Damn. Thank God I watch the movie first.” I know I’m gonna hate the movie if I read the novel beforehand.

The thing is, for you who actually expect the movie to be exactly or at least 80% similar to the book or vice versa, you’d definitely get disappointed.

I mean it.

But then, I also remembered that ever since the trailer came out, it was never said that movie was “adapted from” the book. They always put it as “inspired by” the book. Not adapted. Inspired.

So I was kinda guessing, actually, (with fear, of course) that the book might actually be completely different from the movie.

And my hunch was right.

One of the main difference that I noticed right away is the age of the main characters.

In the movie, both Srintil and Rasus were already grown-ups (at least Srintil must be in her early 20s) when she became a Ronggeng and finally lost her virginity. In the book, Srintil was only 11 and Rasus was 14. Of course, it shouldn’t be a surprise considering the area where they live and grew up. They was born and raised in a rural area, where young marriage (an extraordinarily young marriage) was considered pretty common, not to mention it was only 1960s at that time, which make it more common, supposedly. Yet the movie make it so different. On the other hand, I think many people would definitely surprised and protest if they actually bring an 11 year old girl to merely act like she was losing her virginity to a 14 year old boy. Fine, of course, that might happen here and there, but to display that in a movie might still be a contradiction. I remember that they actually need to ask for Olivia Hussey’s permission before she could actually showed up naked in the 1968’s version of Romeo and Juliet.

Another difference is the plot. They still do include the conflict and tragedy of the 30 September movement, including the communist influence of small villages like Dukuh Paruk, but the whole story is pretty much more complicated in the novel. (Of course, it’s a novel, AND a trilogy, to be exact, so what do you expect, eh?)

Despite the differences, I have to say that I love both the novel and the movies, and I then realize that to keep comparing the movie with the novel is a useless effort. The movie was inspired by the book, not adapted. So what I’m actually doing right now is treating the novel and the movie as two different work of art and literature. They’re similar but different. That’s it. I love the movie. And I love the novel. I love both plots. I love both endings. (You still don’t want spoilers, don’t you?) I love each of the characters.

Since the novel has no visual, of course it relies heavily of Ahmad Tohari’s narrative throughout the novel. And I have to say: wow. The way he narrates things, I was wow-ed with the way he played with words alone. Not to mention the way he takes his readers to this rural areas where Dukuh Paruk is located, where its citizens all live in poverty, yet none of them seem to want to have better life–they simply thought that that is what life is all about: acceptance of their poverty, despite the fact that they don’t eat good food, they suffer from malnutrition and other horrible stuffs. To them, having a rice and scrambled eggs are already considered luxury.

Prisia Nasution

The movie, on the other hand, has many elements in it. One the most important element is of course the act of the actress and actor. The actress playing Srintil is, later I found out, a new actress in the movie industry: Prisia Nasution and the actor playing Rasus is Oka Antara. I have to say that I’m not very familiar with Indonesian actress and actor since I’m not used to watch many Indonesian movies before. Other than Sang Penari and Laskar Pelangi (Rainbow Troops), I used to have this stereotype that Indonesian movies are mostly teenlit, and is definitely not my favorite genre. Of course I was wrong. There are plenty other movies which are definitely not teenlit or chicklit. So right now, I’m trying to catch up by following some famous titles such as Perempuan Punya Cerita, Merah Putih and Merantau. Anyway, I heard some people said that Prisia Nasution is not the right actress to play Srintil in the movie because she looked like a dark-skinned Japanese. Well, she has narrow eyes, indeed, but I think she did splendidly in the movie. I was wow-ed with the way she played with the emotion inside Srintil: when she was about to lose her virginity to a guy she didn’t like, but then Rasus suddenly showed up. Her despair and broken heart toward Rasus, the way she danced and sing, the way she act like a woman who’s desperate for a child. Wow. I think she acted so well there in the movie. And Oka Antara? Same wow. One

Oka Antara

thing that really surprised and excited me when I was watching the movie is that the language used in the movie is the Banyumasan Javanese–the Javanese with the local accent used in my hometown. Of course, I was then like, “Right. Ahmad Tohari is from somewhere near my hometown, of course his story would revolve around the places around it and of course the people in the story would talk like that.” But still, I was surprised. Now, in the movie, Oka Antara played a young man named Rasus, who went from this stupid guy from a small village and can’t even read, and can barely shout or speak firmly the first time he join the army. I chuckled every time I remember him speaking, “I can’t read, sir,” to his commander in the army with a thick local accent. When the army took him to their place, he looked like this lost little kid and seemed scared of everything and everybody. But the army educated him, and then he became this firm, stern-looking guy who’s considered one of the best soldier in the army. I mean, how many people can actually showed such a progress so obviously and yet so naturally? Really, wow.

Another character that really wow-ed me is this character named Sakum. He’s one of the musician who always accompany Srintl whenever she performs. What’s special about Sakum is that he’s the complement of each show. He’s the one who always make each performance spicy and lively with his obscene remarks. What makes it even more special is that he’s blind. He can’t see. But he’s one of the musician. He is said to have a sharp sense on things around him. He’s one person you look up to because he’d know what you feel inside you just by listening to your voice and smelling your aura. And the guy playing Sakum in the movie picture this perfectly.

Of course there are plenty other elements in the movie, including the costumes, the setting, etc etc. But what really left a deep impression in me is the emotion conveyed by each actors and actresses. I’m gonna say it again: I love them. The movie and the novel. Such a masterpiece.