Yeah, so did I. We were shaken, confused. We needed explanation of what just happened. In brief, we just didn’t get the movie
Village potters Siti and Setio are happily married. They were once Ramayana dancers, but now they sell earthenware to live. Siti used to play Sita, the beautiful wife of Prince Rama (Setio’s former role), who becomes the object of evil King Ravana’s desire. As if cursed by the drama, the couples falls victim to their roles’ fates when a rich man, Ludiro, tries to seduce Siti.The movie was made as a tribute to Mozart’s 250th anniversary, and the title is Opera Jawa, which should give me a clear hint that it is an opera. That means all the dialogues (except a few minor ones) are brought in tembang (Javanese songs). It really got to my nerve when I realized that
After got used to the tembang and identified the characters, I finally could enjoy the movie. It’s quite gripping, actually. And it’s beautiful in Garin’s way. Sensual, and a little bit violent. I couldn’t help connect it with Ramayana story. I think it’s not exactly a fair way to watch a movie, because a movie should be able to stand (and be understood) by itself. Maybe those audience who knew nothing about Ramayana could watch the movie with less burden and enjoy it more, while I always relate Siti to Sinta (Sita), Setio to Rama and Ludiro to Rahwana (Ravana).
I really enjoyed Ludiro’s part (played by Eko Supriyanto, a great dancer and choreographer but famous to us pop generation as Madonna’s former dancer). It’s energetic and expressive in broad range. From greedy to sad to lustful to hopeless. Setio was played by Martinus Miroto, a master in Javanese classical dance and contemporary dance. Siti was played by none other than former Putri Indonesia Artika Sari Devi (ah, there’s always at least one in every Garin’s work, right?). I can’t say much about their acting, mostly because I’m not familiar with the medium (tembang and dancing). Compared to Ludiro’s, Siti and Setio’s dancing is kind of expressionless, aristocratic. Maybe it symbolizes the restriction in marriage life, while the forbidden love—symbolizes with red cloth and apparently a vagina model which I just realize after reading the catalogue—is more passionate. It gets to the extreme when Setio tried to “shape” Siti with clay in pottery turntable.
From what I know, Ramayana is a metaphor of loyalty and usually portray power oppression. There are some scenes of violence which I think should be relate to present Indonesian condition. When I think about it, the problem is it was hard for me to connect the violence to Ludiro, except I knew he represented Rahwana. Maybe it was just me with bad Javanese language and verbal tendency and limited intelligence. Heck, what did I expect? It’s Javanese, it’s wayang orang (traditional Javanese dance-drama) and it’s Garin’s. The movie is full of symbols.
A carefully crafted one, though. Wildan said the movie is, “Surreal, but not absurd.” It involved several installation artists, and it’s not too much to make you wanna throw up. It just gives you a headache ;P
Anyway, Wildan and I watched the movie on its premiere at Jiffest. It was for invitation only but we insisted to wait in theatre entrance until an official finally let us in just a few minutes before the movie began. We hardly believe we could get in and watched the movie with important film people and celebrities and foreign representatives. (And my excitement did not lessen when I found out Athun actually had invitation and Eka had a copy of the movie)
What feels strange for me is there seemed only two of us who were crazy and stubborn enough to sneak into the premiere. I mean, on last year’s Jiffest, there were more than one time I got into the screening when the tickets already unavailable. It was a combination of stubbornness and luck, because there were always a few seats empty. And we’re talking about Opera Jawa, which probably won’t go into 21 (and now I know why). Maybe because the screening was held on Djakarta XXI. I think this year’s committee want to raise the prestige of the festival by moving the screenings from last years’ mostly on TIM to exclusive XXI theatres (eX and Djakarta—just renovated last year). But the moving changes the audience, or at least the audience’s behavior. And I miss TIM’s crowd
Hmm… I don’t know if I can stand it, but I probably should borrow the movie from Eka anyway