Monday, December 4, 2017

Marlina, The Murderer In Four Acts


2017 | Director : Mouly Surya | 95 minutes

A co-production between Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and France, the movie tells about the story of one Sumbanese woman Marlina and her journey to find justice.

The movie opens with Act I, The Robbery, where the newly widowed Marlina (Marsha Timothy) receiving an unexpected visit from Markus (Egi Fedly), who nonchalantly told her that there would six more men coming to take her money and her livestock. "And if we have time, we'll sleep with you," he said while playing a small string instrument next to Marlina's mummified dead husband.

He told Marlina to prepare food (chicken soup) for his robber gang, and even demanded to be served betel nut and coffee, just like a respectable guest. Marlina does as told, but adds a secret ingredient that leaves four robbers die after consuming the soup. When she tries to serve Markus the soup, she drops the plates and then decapitates him as he forces himself on her.

Two other robbers already leave with her livestocks: 10 cows, 10 pigs and seven chicken. She spends the night burning the small string instrument in the kitchen and leaning to her dead husband in the living room.

Act II, The Journey, shows Marlina leaving home the next morning, with Markus' head in tow, to report the case to the police. She runs to her heavily pregnant neighbor, Novi (Dea Panendra), who is on her way to the city to reunite with her husband Umbu. The chatterbox Novi as well as a lady who is delivering two horses for her nephew's wedding do not balk at the sight of Marlina's weapon and "evidence". They even share tips and stories on how to have smooth labor as they share ride on a truck.

In the middle of the journey, the two robbers take over the truck when Marlina and Novi are taking pee stop in the bushes. Novi distracts the robbers to another place and continues travelling with the truck driver, the lady of the horses and the nephew. Marlina later finds a horse tied on a rope and rides the animal to the nearest police station. She arrives early at the police station and decides to have a plate of satay. A little girl named Topan (Safira Ahmad) takes her order and helps keeping a box containing Markus' head in her place.

In Act III, The Confession, Marlina has to wait for the police officers to finish the table tennis practice before she can report her case (which is rape and robbery, but not the murder). The police takes note on her case, but does not really pay attention. He told her that to prove on her rape case, they had to wait for the arrival of the medical equipment, which is scheduled in the next month. She walks out of the police station in a disappointed state, and later being comforted by Topan's hug.

Meanwhile, Novi finally meets her husband Umbu after the lady of the horses and the nephew manage to take over the truck from the robbers. However, Umbu thinks she is cheating on him because Franz (Yoga Pratama), one of the two robbers, insinuates him with the idea when he takes Novi's mobilephone. Umbu hits her and leaves her, while Franz slowly approaches. Franz forces her to call Marlina and ask her to come back home with Markus' head.

The movie concludes in Act IV, The Birth, with Novi decapitating Franz's head and then delivering the baby. Oh my God, so many blood in this movie one would think Mouly Surya tries to copy Quentin Tarantino. 

Just like many (if not all?) Indonesian films out there, this movie also has many scenes that do not  correspond well with the reality. For example, (1) a small eatery serving satay in the middle of Sumba's savana is almost impossible to exist (I'm saying this based on my own experience), (2) they use cellphone for communication, but then light up candle at night (why not show a solar panel?), and (3) in the closing scene, Marlina rides one of the motorbikes, which made me thinking:"Instead of hitching the truck to reach police station, why didn't she use the motorbike in the first place?"

Some of my friends, including those who have lived in Sumba, commented that the movie does not portray the real Sumba. They said that the movie only sold the beautiful landscape of Sumba without really showing the culture that is ingrained in everyday's life. Having visited Sumba myself, I can agree with most of their comments.

We can always criticize everything, but there are a lot of things to be celebrated about this movie. Let me mention the top three from my point of view: (1) It features women as the lead actors, and the women are not portrayed as weak, timid creatures, but active humans that resolve their own problems, (2) Despite the slightly missed portrayal of the culture, it brings public attention to Sumba (and most eastern Indonesia area), because most Indonesian films were shot in Jakarta, Bali or other western Indonesia area, so it really puts the area into the limelight, and (3) It has garnered several nominations from international film festivals.

This movie has been screened in Cannes Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Sitges International Film Festival and Busan International Film Festival. Marsha Timothy even won best actress awards in Sitges International Film Festival. It's not everyday that an Indonesian movie gets such a good rap. Go and catch Marlina in the nearest cinema near you.

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