Hans (Jimmy Kobogau) is a young man from Serui, Papua, who dreams on becoming a professional soccer player. Alas, his fate took a sudden turn that left him on the edge of despair in the foreign, concrete jungle of Jakarta. A meeting with Mak (Dewi Irawan), an elderly owner of Padangnese restaurant, has given him a chance to redeem himself. But when cultural clashes rear its ugly head, can Hans overcome their differences and find common grounds?
The tale of Tabula Rasa was well pace, effectively using its 105 minute duration. The scenes before the title effectively introduce and reveal Hans background in such a short time-frame. Which made the transformation of his character (which gradually revealed through out the film through flash backs) that much compelling. Sitting in the first few minutes of the film i strongly empathise and curious about what happened to our main character of the film. But what happened actually did not matter as much as the encounter between him and the people of Takana Juo padangnese restaurant. Conflicts arises from cultural clashes, a feat not uncommon in the culturally diverse country such as Indonesia. Well written characters that fleshes out this cultural differences through gestures and idealism: Mak who wanted to help in ways that Hans did not understand, Parmanto (Yayu Unru) whose sense of ownership and territoriality of the restaurant and his cooking stubbornly refusing Hans, and Natsir (Ozzol Ramdan) who wanted to diffuse the tension but somehow just got caught in the crossfire.
A local Indonesian film with incorporated cultural background is not really a rare feat. Either used as local settings or utilizing specific accents and culture (like Beta Maluku or The Dancer). But a cross-cultural experience are rarely seen, and none are as smartly utilized as such in Tabula Rasa. Since Padang is my heritage, i see the characters of Mak, Natsir, and Parmanto as reflections of bits of padangnese characteristics i see in my parents or my relatives, in the simplest gestures and small things (like Natsir randomly singing while he works or Mak and Parmanto strong-headedness). Food porn appears in the form of padangnese traditional cuisine (which i am more familiar with as home cooking), made out of earthy ingredients as well as subtle promotion of local wisdom, i think it will reminds you of the warmth of home, because of they are so down to earth, honest, and delicious.
There’s something that sets Tabula Rasa apart from other Indonesian film. Writer Tumpal Tampubolon weaved a simple story yet rich with details and so well thought out. Everything in the film possess a meaning that would add to a conclusion. The food featured has its own role, almost like a fifth character to the story. The cast is relatively small with only four actors. Although the performance of newcomer, Jimmy Kobogau, a native from Papua, was not as dazzling as his smile, since his range is still quite limited. But showing the more seasoned actors (such as Yayu Unru) showing their crafts by filling the gaps and elevate the performance as a solid ensemble. Music by Lie Indra Perkasa accented the films with mix of the traditional instruments from both Sumatra and Papua with contemporary and classical instruments. He also add an old track from the late 60s, Ernie Johan’s Teluk Bayur, and add a song from a band with folk genre, Dialog Dini Hari.
One of the reason i really excited about the film is because it’s the debut feature ofAdriyanto Dewo. Dewo’s previous films show the director ability to capture atmospheric mood through silences and simplicity (perhaps most obvious in the stunning scene where Hans hover on the bridge above the railways, though i wish it would linger just a bit longer). I think there’s his flair for art house type cinema here, but with the light comedic content become a relief and add lightness to it. I think the film at the end has a certain regard of artistry that is very different from other commercial works, yet not really crossing the line to art films either. Which made the film felt vaguely commercial. Maybe, I wish it would be pushing the envelope a little towards art. The ending though is unexpectedly smart, perhaps not everyone gonna love it, but i do. I think it is really echoing the title of the film itself: tabula rasa (blank slate).
Really a film about (new) beginning, Tabula Rasa are a fresh mix of new voice in Indonesian cinema. It’s not only about tradition, its about overcoming differences and finding common grounds. Its abound bonds and people that shared them. I really enjoy this new recipe in cultivating our local cultures and traditions. It evokes the word natsukashii (懐かしい) in my mind, which i really couldn’t find the proper english equivalent for. Tabula Rasa is heartwarming and wistfully nostalgic, just like homemade meal. Better consumed with your loved ones, preferably with a trip to a padangnese restaurant right after :)
Tabula Rasa starts sreening in theaters today, September 25, 2014 onwards. Not to be missed!
Also read my (old) Small Talk with Adriyanto Dewo.
Tabula Rasa (2014)
GENRE Drama, Comedy
DIRECTOR Adriyanto Dewo | PRODUCER Sheila Timothy | WRITER Tumpal Tampubolon | MUSIC Lie Indra Perkasa | CINEMATOGRAPHER Amalia Trisna Sari | EDITOR Dinda Amanda | STUDIO Lifelike Pictures | COUNTRY Indonesia | RUNNING TIME 105 minutes | RELEASE September 25, 2014 (ID)
STARRING Jimmy Kobogau, Dewi Irawan, Ozzol Ramdan, Yayu Unru
All pictures are provided by Tabula Rasa film and Lifelike Pictures (with editing and changes by KaramelKinema)
DID YOU KNOW? This is not the first collaboration between director Adriyanto Dewo with Lifelike Pictures production. Before Tabula Rasa, Dewo was the director for Behind the Scenes featurettess on Joko Anwar’s Modus Anomali. Young director, Yandy Laurens (Wan An, 2012) who’s in charge of directing Behind the Scenes featurettes of Tabula Rasa also directed a short film that is a spin-off of one of the scenes in the film.