EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|OPERA JAWA (aka: REQUIEM FOR JAVA) (director/writer: Garin Nugroho; screenwriters: Armantono/based on “The Abduction of Sita,” from the Hindu epic “The Ramayana; cinematographer: Teoh Gay Hian; editor: Andhy Pulung; music: Rahayu Supanggah/Wiwid Setya; cast: Artika Sari Devi (Siti), Martinus Miroto (Setio), Eko Supriyanto (Ludiro), Retno Maruti (Sukesi), Nyoman Sure (Sure); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Garin Nugroho; Global Lens Collection; 2006-Indonesia-in Indonesian with English subtitles)|
|"A refreshing treat."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It was commissioned
for the New Crowned Hope project by musical impresario Peter Sellars
and sponsored by the
city of Vienna to mark the 250th birthday anniversary of
Mozart, and was meant to be an Eastern version of Mozart's Requiem
(though mostly playful until the tragic climax) for the world's victims
of violence, religious extremism and corrupt politicians. This unique revolutionary opera from
Indonesia is a sumptuous surreal musical that's modernized and loosely based on “The Abduction of Sita,” from the
Hindu Sanskrit epic “The
Garin Nugroho ("The Poet")
keeps it both magical and grounded in reality, no easy task. The colorful settings and costumes; lively
mime, song and dance numbers (especially noteworthy are the scintillating gamelan music, a huge fat man
with big tits singing Javanese
folk tunes and sacred court dances); and an invitingly erotic and meaningful
love triangle tragic tale, make Opera Jawa a refreshing treat.
In the rural village of Umbal
Makmur, serene village potters Setio
(Martinus Miroto) and Siti (Artika Sari Devi), who were former ritual
dance partners, are now
happily married until Setio takes his ox cart to go on a long business
trip to sell his wares. The local lustful wealthy butcher, Ludiro (Eko Supriyanto), who runs the town and is adorned with a
Devil-like goatee, sees this as an opportunity to tempt the lonely Siti
to be with him, as he plies her with gifts so that the former Ramayana dancer can once again dance even
though her jealous husband forbids her to dance for the pleasure of
others again. Siti used to
play the part of Sita, the
beautiful wife of Prince Rama--the role that Setio used to play. In
that puppet dance play, the sensual Sita became the
sexual object of the evil King Ravana and was abducted by him to
the land of Lanka.
The ancient legendary play is now
transferred to the small village, as it plays out in a similar way to
the Sanskrit epic. Because Siti couldn't resist dancing for the butcher
(the lady wants to be free of bossy men, like her hubby, telling her
what she must do), Setio is overcome with unwarranted jealousy and
refuses to sleep with his wife when he returns from his business trip.
This drives the confused Siti into the arms of the cunning Ludiro, who
takes advantage of the vulnerable beauty as he thinks only of himself.
This sets the stage for the rival men to have an epic battle. In the
backdrop, the village goes through a crime-spree from the lawless
elements and a peasant uprising, and there's an ensuing war on the
horizon as well as the threat of economic ruin. The poor state of the
country is blamed on arrogant politicians and on a government that is
run so poorly.
It's a bold attempt at Indonesian
traditional storytelling, that puts into the blender Western
modern dance, silly kitsch moments, moments of harsh reality and
European high art. A spectacle film that's hard to stop looking at and
even harder to categorize. It's not for all tastes and is too cluttered
with details, making it difficult to follow at times; but, for those
who come to the visual feast in the right PC frame of mind it's a
special unforgettable treat that by any standards is a superior work.
REVIEWED ON 7/7/2010 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ