Last year, Indonesian cinema got Habibie & Ainun (2012), a biopic of Indonesia’s 3rd president BJ Habibie, based on his memoir, focusing on his love for his wife that just passed away the year before that, Ibu Ainun. I had the privilege of meeting both of them in different occassion and both are lovely, lovely people. The adaptation was a glorious hit, my favorite Indonesian actor Reza Rahadian transformed himself as Habibie, looking nothing like the bow-tie wearing engineer himself, but proving his capabilities as an actor. This year, we had Soekarno. A historical biopic of Indonesia’s first president, the father of proclamation of our nation’s Independence in 1945. Directed by Hanung Bramantyo, one of our local prominent director, whose works i would avoid in general, since his works lately has grown more underwhelming than ever.
It begin with a shot of a young boy named Kusno, who were always in poor health, his father then renamed him as Soekarno, wishing the boy to grow up strong and brave like Karna the warrior. We follow the life of Soekarno as he was starting a movement and spreading his charisma through his oration. Advocating for equality and fairness the local’s welfare against the colonialism of the Netherlands, who were colonizing Indonesia at the time. Deemed dangerous, he was imprisoned and shipped to other parts of Indonesia. Around the time the World War II outbreak and the Netherlands were forced to evacuate Indonesia and the reign fall into the hands of the Japanese. Soekarno were used to promote goodwill of Japanese governance and become the ambassador to gain trust from the local in exchange of the promise of Independence. Along his way Soekarno cooperate with Muhammad Hatta while polarizing youth organizations blossomed. Thus begin the important battle of wits while bidding for the momentum to declare the independence of Indonesia.
This film could have been the high-strung, potent film showing the leadership of Soekarno and his measured tactics. Sad to say, the film seemed to take a leaf out of Habibie & Ainun, infusing what could be a illustrious portrait of Soekarno with his romantic entanglement as a way to brought out the humanistic side of the man. Which failed terribly, and instead of showing a man behind all the charisma, it’s crossing the border of cheap romance. Soekarno’s venture with the ladies is legendary, he had 9 wives in his lifetime. But the exploratory approach that the script offers was upstaging the man political aspiration as the first president of Indonesia. It ended up making the film feels cheap, as if not trusting the audience to be able to be invested in his story if not for the romantic affairs of his life.
Ario Bayu is one of the good working actors at the moment. Yet his portrayal of Soekarno did not raise to the level i know he could have delivered. He seemed like he slipped in and out of character at times, thus loosing the potent charm that is known from Soekarno. Maudy Kusnaedi portrayed the pain of the jilted wife with grace and quiet sadness. Tika Bravani the newcomer seemed to have a lot of potential in the role of Fatmawati (the first, first lady of Indonesia) but like what happened to Bayu seemed to slipped out of her role (at this point i wonder if the script was to blame). Ferry Salim performance was closer to a joke just because of the bad, faux japanese accent he speak in. I appreciate the performances of Lukman Sardi as Hatta and Tanta Ginting as Sutan Sjahrir, as well as the veteran actors in less prominent roles (such as Ria Irawan).
The visual look of the film had this filtered muted, murky colors as an attempt to give the historical look for the film, but ended up making the film looked cheap and amateurish, cancelling out what could have been a gorgeous cinematography by Faozan Rizal. The choices of soundtrack and score that could be glorious seemed trying too hard to inspire patriotism, and ended up chauvinistic instead.
Before the start of the film screening, the national anthem Indonesia Raya was played. It gives me chills and sparks the patriotism in me. So i was pretty disappointed by the film that only attempt to coax cheap emotions out of the audience. The duration that hit more than 2 hour mark felt tedious and dull. I was so bored towards the end that the momentum of Indonesia’s declaration of Independence did not give me the emotional impact i was hoping for. Such a waste, Hanung. Such a waste.
GENRE Biopic, Historical
DIRECTOR Hanung Bramantyo | PRODUCER Raam Punjabi | WRITER Ben Sihombing | MUSIC Tya Subiakto | CINEMATOGRAPHER Faozan Rizal | STUDIO Dapur Films, MVP Pictures | DISTRIBUTOR MVP Pictures | COUNTRY Indonesia | RELEASE November 21, 2013 (ID)
STARRING Ario Bayu, Maudy Kusnaedi, Tika Bravani, Lukman Sardi, Tanta Ginting, Mathias Muchus, Soejiwo Tejo, Ferry Salim, Ria Irawan
Dear Mr Hanung Bramantyo, look at this still taken from the movie website, it looks better than the bleak grey, low-saturated coloring you choose too enforced the historical feeling of the film isn’t it? (let’s be real, McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave which is also a historical biopic still retains the look of the period through costuming and props, not through overdone filters).