Review of Film ‘Opera Java’ Essay

During my stay in Indonesia I was introduced to more traditional forms of arts here: theatre through ketoprak is closest to definition of ‘western’ theatre, wayang orang – staged Ramayana based theatre and wayang kulit which can be roughly defined as leather theatre play which is based mainly from stories from Mahabharata epic; dance through variety of court and profane dances, music via traditional gamelan and popular music genres such as pop, rock, punk. Paintings and sculptures are new form and for me the most challenging one to meet and to witness their evolution.

Because my knowledge of Indonesian language is still low, thus I wasn’t into Indonesian literature and in my country only one author is translated. One form of art is missing and I find it important in my life? It is a film. While staying here I was always curious to see and in that form to learn Indonesian language. I find more American (and English-speaking movies) with Indonesian subtitles then other way around. And while people were convincing me to go and to see the best Indonesian movie ever – ‘The Raid: Redemption” I was trying to convince them to watch and to explain to me best Indonesian movie for me ‘The requiem for Java’.

I failed. So, I watch a movie alone and decided to investigate more about it for this paper where I will also put my opinion about this movie. I divide a paper into several parts. First part about director, second part is about technical aspects of movie, third reception of a movie from reviews in English I could find on Internet, fourth is about elements in movie – traditional Javanese dances and classical story of Ramayana shaped in this story and last fifth part is my review and conclusion about this film. Introduction In 2005 director’s mother died.

Director decided to make a movie about Java and its complex culture – mythology, history and presence. He was commissioned by Austrian government and Peter Sellars to make his story due to 250th anniversary of Mozart. While Indonesian name for this movie is ‘Opera Jawa’ international title is ‘Requiem from Java’ – movie is still more popular with its original name. Lot of people mix it with ‘Opera Van Jawa’ which is TV comedy series. In this paper film is mentioned by its original name. I. Garin Nugroho – Director of ‘Opera Jawa’ Nugroho was born in Yogyakarta, Special Region of Yogyakarta on 6 June 1961.

He was the fourth child of postal workers Soetjipto Amin and Mariah, who eventually had seven children. As a child, he attended an Islamic elementary school, later attending Catholic secondary schools. His father owned a lending library and enjoyed writing, leading Nugroho to start writing from a young age; he later quit writing because he felt his father to be too critical. After graduating from Kolese Loyola high school in 1981, Nugroho went to Jakarta to study filmmaking at the Jakarta Institute of Arts (Institut Kesenian Jakarta, or IKJ), as well as law and politics at the University of Indonesia (UI).

After studying under Teguh Karya, he graduated from the IKJ in 1985. He later graduated from UI in 1991. During his free time, Nugroho directed documentaries and short movies. Nugroho made his directorial debut with 1991’s Cinta dalam Sepotong Roti (Love in a Slice of Bread), overcoming bureaucracy caused by his refusal to join the Indonesian filmmakers’ union. Cinta dalam Sepontong Roti was selected as Best Film in that year’s Indonesian Film Festival. This movie garnered a lot of domestic attention, but he was also selected as The Best Young Director in Seoul next year.

His next movie ‘Surat untuk Bidadari’ won Best Film in Tokyo International Film Festival and Nugroho was best director in Pyongyang International Film Festival and in Berlin International Film Festival Young Filmmakers Jury gave him this price. ’Daun di Atas Bantal’ in 1998 also won price in Tokyo. Broader international recognition had with 2006 with ‘Opera Jawa’ and in 2008 with ‘iron Bed’ – it was shown at the Zurcher Theater Spektakel in Zurich, Switzerland. The Jakarta Post writes that Nugroho’s films emphasize esthetics, but contain sociopolitical messages.

Among the issues he has discussed in his films are multiculturalism, politics, intercultural communication, and his vision for a “New Indonesia”. However, he has faced criticism that his films are too difficult for the general public to understand; Seno Gumira Ajidarma credits this to Nugroho’s narrative style, which comes across as strange to Indonesian viewers. Joko Anwar, writing for the The Jakarta Post, notes that dialogue written by Nugroho tends to lack believability. Sylviana Hamdani of The Jakarta Globe describes his dialogue as poetic.

Nugroho also mixes historical footage with staged scenes in several of his movies, including Surat Untuk Bidadari and Aku Ingin Menciummu Sekali Saja. II. Opera Jawa – Table ‘ID’ of a movie Directed by| Garin Nugroho| Produced by| Garin Nugroho Simon Field Keith Griffiths| Written by| Armantono Garin Nugroho| Starring| Artika Sari Devi Martinus Miroto Eko Supriyanto| Music by| Rahayu Supanggah| Cinematography| Gay Hian Teoh| Editing by| Andi Pulung Waluyo| Plot| Siti (Artika Sari Devi) and Setio (Martinus Miroto) are a married couple living in a small village.

They were once dancers in plays depicting the Ramayana, but have since retired from the stage to sell earthenware pottery. Siti used to play the part of Sita, the wife of Prince Rama, whom Setio portrayed. In an episode from the Ramayana, Siti becomes the object desire of evil King Ravana and is abducted by him. The events of the Ramayana are paralleled in the characters’ real lives when Ludiro (Eko Supriyanto), a butcher who rules over all the village’s business affairs, tries to seduce Siti. Distributed by| Trigon Film| Releasing/Film Festivals| Opera Jawa was one of several films commissioned by Peter Sellars for the New Crowned Hope Festival in 2006 in Vienna to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Other films commissioned for the project included I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone by Tsai Ming-liang and Syndromes and a Century by Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The film had its world premiere on August 7, 2006 at the Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival.

It was then screened at several film festivals, including the Venice Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, the Vancouver International Film Festival and Nantes Festival of Three Continents. In 2007, its festival screenings include the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Belgrade’s FEST, the Cleveland International Film Festival, the Singapore International Film Festival, the Cambridge Film Festival and the Era New Horizons Film Festival. There were theatrical releases in 2007 in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands.

It received a limited theatrical release in January 2008 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. | Running time| 120 minutes| Country| Indonesia/Austria| Language| Indonesian| Awardsandnominations| Opera Jawa won the Best Composer award for Rahayu Supanggah at the inaugural Asian Film Awards. It was also one of six nominees for Best Film at the 1st Asian Film Awards. It was nominated for Best Feature Film at the 2007 Asia Pacific Screen Awards. It won the Silver Screen Award for Best Film at the 2007 Singapore International Film Festival. | Movieposters| (Sources: www. wikipedia. og ;amp; www. imdb. com)|

III. Reception ‘Opera Jawa’ is one of the rare movies that have 100% reception in ‘Rotten Tomato’ Web site for movie lovers and critiques. Average rate among critiques for this movie is 7. 4 from 10 and from audience 3. 6 from 5. Another movie site ‘Internet Movie Database’ (IMDB) rate this movie in total 6. 8 from 10 combining audience and critiques reviews. In this paper there are some quotes from reviews found on these two sites. “Blood and beauty are set in tandem, leaving the audience to wrestle with the contradictions that [director] Nugroho highlights in a film that stands out by any standard of cinema. Jonathan Curiel, “San Francisco Chronicle” “In certain circles, it won’t be for anyone. But it’s as unusual and enigmatic a piece of cinema as you’re likely to see this year. ” “Sky Movies” “A crash course in Javanese symbolism is advised before viewing, but few current movies can boast a more of breath-stopping images. ” Tom Charity, “Total Film” “A beautifully mounted musical epic combining traditional myths with contempo meditations on violence and social inequality, Opera Jawa is bold and innovative. Jay Weissberg, “Variety” “This was one of the best Indonesian movie in 2006, although received poor sales in domestic market. It wasn’t a surprise, as festival and art movies were commonly gained low appreciation everywhere. Anyway, this movie was a good example in interpreting the legendary Ramayana epic. Set in a modern era, Central Java region, with high respect to traditional values. ” – review named “Best Interpretation of the Legendary Ramayana epic” written by Surjorimba Suroto IV. Ramayana and Java the main elements in ‘Opera Jawa’ First element is its name and form of showing story – is it opera, requiem, musical?

Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text (called a libretto) and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Requiem (Requiem Mass, also known as Mass for the dead (Latin: Missa pro defunctis) or Mass of the dead (Latin: Missa defunctorum)), is a Mass celebrated for the repose of the soul or souls of one or more deceased persons, using a particular form of the Roman Missal. Musical (Musical theatre) is a form of theatre that combines songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. From theatre form it also eneter the film form.

So, this movie is not in any of this category – fully, but it has elements of all. Plus it has elements of classical Javanese art. Garin Nugroho, the director of the feature film “Opera Jawa” says that for him it is “not only a film, but a library”, meaning that it is a valuable historical record of Javanese culture, both ancient and modern. In the film it is told through traditional Javanese dance, song and Gamelan music, composed by musician Rahayu Supanggah, of Surakarta, Java. It’s an opera, and has no spoken dialog. It also features a singing storyteller, Slamet Gundono, who helps to move the story along.

And there is a quartet of men in a roadside food stall talking (in song) about political and social matters, who also serve that purpose. The dances include the sacred Bedoyo, performed by nine female dancers which depicts the encounter of Senopati, with Kanjeng Ratu Kidul, the Queen of the South Sea. Tradition says that if you watch very carefully you can sometimes see a tenth dancer, when the Queen herself joins the dancers. “Opera Jawa” uses spectacular sets of art installations, designed by some of Indonesia’s leading contemporary artists, Agus Suwage, Nindityo Adipurnomo, S.

Teddy D, Hendro Suseno, Titarubi, Sunaryo, and Entang Wiharso. The story has been translated to a setting around 1997/98 as the nation of Indonesia arose in popular demonstration against the Suharto dictatorship after the financial crisis. Siti used to play the part of Sita, the wife of Prince Rama, whom Setio portrayed. In an episode from the Ramayana, Siti becomes the object desire of evil King Ravana and is abducted by him. The events of the Ramayana are paralleled in the characters’ real lives when Ludiro (Eko Supriyanto), a butcher who rules over all the village’s business affairs, tries to seduce Siti.

The main characters were only three persons: The Husband (a very humble man), the Wife (very beautiful, loyal to her husband, but often disappoint with the poor and ordinary life she had), and The Rich Man (very powerful, rich, and obsessed with The Wife). It was solely based on the three main characters from Ramayana: the noble Rama, his wife Shinta, and the evil Rahwana. Sinta is now Siti, and Rama is now Setyo, a couple who earn their living as potters. However in the past they have both been performers in the Ramayana Ballet.

It is customary that when a Javanese female dancer marries, she retires from performing, out of respect to her husband. The fiery Ludiro represents Rahwana, the abductor. He too once danced with them in the role of Rahwana, and has always desired the lovely Siti. Now he pulls out all stops to seduce her. Meantime her husband’s fortunes are sinking and so are his spirits, as he loses his money, his business fails, and he realizes that he’s losing his wife’s heart as well. No wonder Siti is tempted by the exciting, dangerous Ludiro, since he’s wealthy and powerful and her husband is moping and seems to be at the end of his tether.

The confident Ludiro insults her, caressing her face with his foot and flicking his endless lengths of red cloth in her face, yet still she is fascinated. Eko Supriyanto (Ludiro) is one hell of a dancer, and steals the show with his dance scene in the abattoir, several sequences featuring the stunning art installations, and dancing on the table in the food stall). Eventually Setyo has nothing left to lose, and joins the angry demonstrators leading troops of his own, mounted on a symbolic stallion emblazoned “Viva la Muerte”.

The troops are angrily chanting about being tired of being taken for granted, treated like oxen under the dictatorship which had prevailed for so long. The costumes and locations are stunning, and the re-telling of this tale uses many metaphors taken from ancient Javanese tradition. Siti represents the earth itself, as she is fought over, and torn by the conflicts of men. She sings, “I am the earth, tilled by the plow, I am replete with blessings. I, Siti, am praised. In me grow flowers and crops…. ”  In Java the Kraton’s traditions endure and provide emotional/spiritual security in a rapidly changing world.

While all the political turmoil outside unfolds, in the ancient Sultan’s Palace stillness is maintained, the singers chant, in rhythm with a beating heart – “When comes the time of fallow earth, of death and dust and barren land, Just as it was for Rama and Sinta, who no longer recognized their world, what remains is fidelity. Praises and prayers, woven with life. And yet one may as well wait for stones to float on water. Only God is almighty. ” At the real Ramayana performance at Prambanan, Yogyakarta, there is a happy ending, with Rahwana killed and the lovers reunited, Sinta’s purity proved.

However, here Siti’s final ‘test of fidelity’ is a fatal revenge and Setyo sings, as he is led away, “In my heart lies justice. You are the setting of a dispute, an object without boundaries, Oh heart, heart, scream, speak”. Rice sprouts in the sand on the beach where Siti’s blood was spilled, confirming her status as a symbol of the fecundity of the earth. The final scene shows a Labuhan procession on the beach south of Yogyakarta, as is still seen twice a year, when the Sultan and the people give thanks and elaborate offerings to Ratu Kidul, the Queen of the South Sea, guardian of the city.

V. Small package of Java’s beauty – review and conclusion about movie First come its confusing name- is it a requiem or an opera? I watch one movie – it’s called ‘Requiem for a dream’ – it’s a sad story of five different characters that are connected with their addiction to drugs and how that addiction can destroy their lives (and dreams within) in short period of time. It is great, but rather moving movie. And requiem is a genre of classical music in West which is usually connected with death. Opera is also western ‘invention’ and that form of art I really don’t like to consume.

So, I found and I heard about this movie, but it stays in my computer for a long time before I decided to watch it. I was moving to Surakarta, Central Java and I was visiting Yogyakarta, city nearby and I was learning about new culture, land and its people. I find joy, myths, religion, but all in lively form – elegant court dances, wayang kulit with its beautiful puppets and shadows, gamelan with its hypnotic music and people who were always positive and smiling. When dances show fight between two sides they are so gentle and peaceful that fight seams rightful and glorifying.

When on wayang there are fight sences, music is more vibrant, tone of dalang is louder, but overall my impression is like scenes of fights in mute black and white movies, more funny, still excited and thrilled, but without death, blood, misery, screams all over the place. And where are some small (or even bigger) traffic accidents in this chaotic traffic people often react with smiley and comment ‘(S)he should pay more attention’ or ‘Hati Hati’ which was everyday greeting when I went to school or city which in English is ‘Take care’.

So, it looked that death in Java doesn’t have that black, dark, horrible and disturbing connotation that I brought with me from my culture. So I decided to watch movie. I watch it together with small documentary about ketoprak in Yogyakarta as one of inspiration for director. The colours in the film move me, the dances part was extra-ordinary, music was well Javanese – beautiful, but still very hard for me to follow and understand. Rest of the elements that I tend to observe while I am watching a film – acting, fluency of plot, transitions of scenes – that was not so perfect.

Eko and his role of Ludiko are superb, but in some cases, like when he use his evil smile to show how powerful and dominant he is in life of a village and in life of its people he looks more like a funny guy rather than leading guy. Setyo (who is played by Martinus Miroto), former dancer, owner of ceramics workshop, husband is really humble man and actor plays that really good, sometimes so good that he looks almost invisible and empty in whole movie. The best performance and scene with him is when he sings to his mother and asks her to take him back to womb.

Role of Siti plays by Artika Sari Dewi is decent, she is really beautiful, which is important for aesthetics of a film, but also her acting is not so good. Maybe that is also part of some Javanese tradition and ancient roles of acting where actors act like wayang characters or like in ketoprak where or emotions are overreacted. If so, actors did really nice job. There are some errors in movie, with transition of scenes and I don’t know if my copy was like that, but they look funny in this somehow pretentious movie. Film is made in memory of a dead mother of a director and in whole movie sad is overwhelming emotion.

Country is changing, love of a couple is changing, and the world is changing. In documentary that I watch after, where director explains all his inspiration, one of the point is his regret about recent and pretty violent history of Indonesia. I think he also wanted to show that in ‘Opera Java’ – Java itself is beautiful, its people also, but spirit and violence are changing that and director doesn’t like that – and he wanted to show us that in movie. He praise for some new Indonesia, Indonesia where films can be inspired and founded by Austria, because of Mozart birthday anniversary, but also can have really strong Javanese identity.

But is Javanese identity also Indonesian one. Are Javanese the only one who are responsible for violent, but also progress of this country. Probably. But are they ready to accept that and to be a leader of one of the most complex countries in the world and look beyond their island. Probably. With this movie they start. They show their piece of Earth, their tradition and culture, but place it in Indonesian frame (with social and political aspects) and also in broader terms (Ramayana like eternal motif of love, fidelity, fight… ).

One of the reason what I also don’t like about this movie is its status ‘not for everybody’. What does that mean? There are a lot of movies who have some restrictions. This is not that kind of a movie. There are some movies which are too abstract or too ‘modern’ so some people can’t understand them. But this is colourful movie with a lot of traditional Javanese (Indonesian) elements. Maybe that is the restriction we need. This movie is not for a person who doesn’t have any clue about Javanese (Indonesian) history, tradition, culture… I will not agree.

I think that movie doen’t communicate with broader audience because director failed in some part. From my point of view he wanted to show some many things and then he lost himself and his basic idea in that process. Still things that stay are remarkably good. I just start to get to know Indonesian movies and I think I made a right choice starting with this one. Next time when some person mix “Opera Van Java” and “Opera Java” I will tell story about this movie and why they should watch it and be proud of it, because it shows Java in a small beautiful package which I will treasure always.