Category Archives: Drama

Calvary: Wrath, Doubt, and the Loss of Innocence

Hi! It’s been a long while since we last wrote here, and I’m gonna go and review a film [internal yelling] EVERYONE SHOULD WATCH!

Calvary is a not-well-known Irish film released this year that features some well known actors. Some of them are Brendan Gleeson (who plays the main role) who played Alastor “Mad Eye” Moody in the Harry Potter films, Aidan Gillen who’s Petyr Baelish off Game of Thrones, the bitter stand-up comic Dylan Moran of Black Books/Shaun of the Dead fame, Kelly Reilly who played Mary Morstan in the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes films, and Domnhall Gleeson, who’s set to star in Star Wars Episode VII. Well, I hope that’ll get you interested in watching this. Because, the prospect of having Dylan Moran, Aidan Gillen, and Domhnall Gleeson in one film is what interested me in this film.

This film tells us about a priest (Brendan Gleeson) who was threatened by someone during a confession. The person threatened to kill him in seven days. The film covers the seven days from the threat until the death. The grand design is as simple as that, actually. But the story is not as simple as that – the seven days highlighted the priest’s “midlife crisis” (or more accurately described as a near-death crisis) as he struggles to keep his life in order, make himself safe, and connect with his community. Yet the priest’s worry about the threat, the truth that it could be anyone in his small community, and the weight of letting go is burdening himself – and we can see the true nature of the priest himself.

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“There’s no point in killing a bad priest. Killing a good one? That would be a shock.”

This film is set in a small Irish community, so don’t be surprised if the characters speak in a near-British accent while paying in Euros. Besides of the priest, the community features a smorgasbord of characters with different personalities. Kelly Reilly plays the priest’s daughter who wanted to connect with him. Chris O’Dowd plays a meat seller with a dry wit. Aidan Gillen plays a (sort of creepy) nurse with tendencies of the hedonistic. Domhnall Gleeson plays a psychopath in his tenure in prison. Marie-Josee Croze plays a grieving wife whose husband died in an accident. Killian Scott plays a young man who wanted to join the army. And, my favorite character of all, Dylan Moran as a jaded rich man who goes through some serious character development in the movie.

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“Everything has to mean something. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

There are TONS of reasons why you have to watch this movie. This movie is often labeled as a comedy, but don’t be tricked; the kind of comedy John Michael McDonagh (the director and the writer) is aiming for is not your ordinary, slapstick American comedy. It’s all black comedy. For people who are not familiar with black comedy, they might just refer to this as a plain drama. But the clashing personalities of the characters and the war inside the community is what makes it a comedy.

An obvious reason to watch this film is its beauty. The cinematography brilliantly portrays the beauty of the Irish coastlines and conveys a sense of contemplation. Another reason to love this film is that this film is not just an ordinary whodunnit written with a Broadchurch-like small town approach, but this film also explores what the victim feels. This film features the war of innocence and wrath inside the priest, and even leaves a room of doubt for the (supposed) holiest man in the community. As this war tears the priest apart, we can see who the priest truly is, and time won’t wait as his seven days goes by.

The third reason why this movie is really good is that there’s no “bad” or “good” people in this movie. Yes, we can obviously spot antiheroes and antivillains, but there is no real boundary between the good and the evil in the people’s personalities. Yet, we can see the war of good and evil enraging between the characters. The priest with his near-death crisis. The rich man with his hedonistic addictions. The wife with her faith. This creates a deep exploration of the characters, and it makes every character, even the asshole-est one, likeable.

The only problem about this movie is that the writing is not cleverly delivered by most of the actors. The standout performances of this film are Brendan Gleeson’s, Dylan Moran’s, and Domhnall Gleeson’s. The person who eventually is going to murder the priest does not deliver the feelings I expected him to deliver. BUT YOU STILL SHOULD WATCH THIS MOVIE. I watched this movie about a month ago and it has not left my mind since then.

Overall? YOU SHOULD WATCH THIS MOVIE. 4.5/5

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12 Years a Slave: When Cinema Embodies Truth

Photography is truth. The cinema is truth twenty-four times per second. –Jean-Luc Godard

There’s gonna be a reason why I used that quote as a heading. Wait and see.

This film was first drawn to my attention as it stars Benedict Cumberbatch, literally. I am following multiple Benedict Cumberbatch news accounts on Twitter and regarding to his casting announcement in the film, I became more and more intrigued with this film, and my curiosity came bigger as this film won numerous awards and also, being a considerable, potential winner to this year’s Best Picture Oscar.

And so, I watched it after months of waiting. Today, in a local theatre. I almost teared up.

This film tells us the true story about a free African-American in the American slavery era, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Through a series of events, he was abducted and sold into slavery to the South. He went through a series of slave owners; the kind Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), the discriminative Tibeats (Paul Dano), and the maniacal Epps (Michael Fassbender).

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The film features the emotions of Solomon Northup; how he refused to be a slave, and finally, had no other way than to accept it. As he worked in the perilous sunlight-laden cotton fields, or cutting wood for a new building, he faced the pain and the fear of doing something slightly wrong – and the fear of facing hundreds of lashes from his masters’ whips.

Slavery is cruel, yet most members of the public haven’t known how cruel it really is. When this film was first announced, people would compare it to a Tarantino work about slavery released last year – Django Unchained. The freed slave Django proceeds to rescue his wife and kill all the evil slave owners. Well, well, it doesn’t work that way; in real life, there was no badass slave that has the power to kill all the slave owners. 12 Years a Slave portrays the truth about slavery, even going through the grotesque methods the slave owners used to torture their slaves. Graphically. This movie is indeed not for everyone’s guts, because the truth about slavery is way scarier than it seems to be. Also, this movie might not fit the dramatic structure of a story, because it’s based from a book. Real, plain, truth, served the way it is. No dramatization, or anything. (Hence the quote above). Even, the white slave owners are all portrayed as cruel. Ford was a bit better than the others, but he’s also cruel. In the movie, there’s no exaggerated “white slave owner saviour character” or anything. It’s Solomon Northup saving himself.

If you watch this movie, there might be something about this film’s looks that differentiates it from common Hollywood movies. Steve McQueen puts the artistic side forwards in the movie. When Solomon Northup was first chained as a slave, the only thing we see is Solomon himself struggling for help inside a very, very dark room. The contrast is prominent, and it intensifies his feelings in the chamber. Also, there are several nature shots, and 30 second shots of Solomon, looking into the void, bottling up his emotions. Very artsy.

And, of course, there are some compelling performances by the actors and actresses. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup was indeed brilliant; he embodies his character really well, especially in the several 30 second shots. Michael Fassbender as a slave-obsessed “maniac” Epps was really believable and deep. And Lupita Nyong’o as Patsy, Epps’ “favorite” slave, did a really deep and sincere performance, really believable, and she made Patsy truly dig the sympathy of the audience.

Verdict? Perfect in every way – although, not for everyone.

I don’t want to survive, I want to live. — Solomon Northup, 12 Years a Slave

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Soekarno: The Dilemma of ‘The Greater Good’

Another self-explanatory movie poster
Another self-explanatory movie poster

I was actually planning to release this review last week, but instead I took a break for an angpao-collecting spree. You can say it went perfectly well. Yes…

Anyway, I put a lot of hope on this review because I’m not fooling around when it comes to talk about my country. So I was expecting you guys to correct me.

Synopsis

As a young man, Soekarno was studied and well associated with both his native homeland (Java and the culture and his fellow Javanese) and the occupying Dutch government (Soekarno can speak fluent Dutch and was well aware of their ‘classy’ traditions). Other than that, in his young age Soekarno lived in a time when Indonesian political figures started to rise; and Soekarno was very lucky to have one of them as his mentor: H.O.S. Cokroaminoto. Inspired by his mentor, Soekarno decided to learn public oratory. Years later, Soekarno became a local political figure and hero towards the people of Indonesia (still in Dutch government occupation), as he is a person with a high skill of public oratory and therefore was capable of igniting the public will of gaining Indonesian independence. The Dutch officials was well aware of that, and in the Dutch occupation period he was put into exile or jails for countless times. But he did not give up. He wrote speeches and letters secretly from his exile or jail in order to get the public’s sympathy. Soekarno, in a nutshell, has an ultimate weapon that the Dutch occupants di not have at that place and time: he had the people. He captured the hearts of the people in a mesmerizing way that the local people, once fearing the Dutch from head to toe, began to doubt their power. The Dutch government was well aware of this, and they hopelessly fight through media propaganda and exiles.

The people's man.
The people’s man.

But the Dutch did not see the Japanese force coming in. The Dutch were not taking the Japanese force very seriously (in my opinion) until it’s too late. The Japanese came, overthrew the Dutch government and military force, and became the new occupant in the Nusantara (Indonesia’s former name before her independence). The Dutch, now aware of what they’re dealing with, tried to smuggle Soekarno and his family out; because they realized what a great asset is Soekarno towards the Japanese, and they feared what was to become if Soekarno joined the Japanese. You just think about it: Soekarno is indirectly the ruler of the Indonesians. He is able to raise up their spirits in a, well, spirited way, and he can frankly make them do anything he wanted them to do. He is the people’s man. He is Soekarno (Bam Bam BAAAAMMMM). Back to the smuggling part (ehm, sorry, got carried away). Soekarno did not want to leave, even though he knows he’s dealing with a force that is totally different than the Dutch government. During Dutch occupation, Soekarno is still partially untouchable due to the existing Dutch law. It was a shield to him to freely express his opinions, as the Dutch were more to democracy rather than fascism or communism (monarchy, actually, but still, the queen of Netherlands must not act so rashly towards Soekarno, because her people may disagree); and Soekarno, as you know, was a truly exceptional public orator. Soekarno is capable of capturing several Dutch’s heart in the Dutch mainland.  The best part is: however mad is the local Dutch government towards Soekarno in Indonesia, they still have to follow orders from the Netherlands capital, Den Haag. In short, the Dutch occupants cannot treat Soekarno anyhow as they want. They have to comply with rules. On the other hand, Japanese were far more brutal. As Soekarno said, the Japanese force will not hesitate in ending a man’s life, not like the Dutch, where the man would be probably judged in a court first. Since in that time Japan was an empire with some sort of a caste, ordinary people have no power at all. Of course, they have rules and laws, but to the Japanese they can do anything they want in an occupied country as long as their superior officers allowed them (maybe like the Generals, Captains, etc.)They are also known for their brutality in dominating another country (like the infamous war event Nanjing Massacre). In short, Soekarno had just lost his best pal the law. Say goodbye to the age of laws, make way for a new era of brutal occupation. Just when the dream for national independence seemed to fade away with the absence of ‘fair’ laws, the Japanese called their trump card: an irresistable devil’s deal with Soekarno and company (Moh. Hatta, the future first vice president of Indonesia, and Sutan Sjahrir, an independence collaborator, too): the Japanese offered independence in exchange for helping them in the ongoing Pacific War. Many Indonesians always thought that our independence was gained through blood and glory; through death of heroes, and through heroic struggles. So this scene delivered one hell of a blow towards the pride of the nation, as you might say. Up to this point, there were two important figures that we must remember: Soekarno and Sutan Sjahrir, because both of them are like magnetic poles. Soekarno believed that by cooperating with the Japanese, there will be less casualties; while on the contrary, Sjahrir was disgusted by the idea of cooperating with their occupants. They are the two extremes, yet with the same core belief: that Indonesia will be independent sooner or later. Later on, Soekarno must also face a personal conflict. His love towards other woman made him left his second wife, Inggit, for Fatmawati.

Inggit, Soekarno's second wife (out of seven, if you're curious).
Inggit, Soekarno’s second wife (out of seven, if you’re curious).
Fatmawati, the weaver of the first indonesian national flag (and Soekarno's third wife).
Fatmawati, the weaver of the first Indonesian national flag (and Soekarno’s third wife).

After several household fights, Inggit decided to leave Soekarno. Sad to say (I am an Indonesian, and I’m a bit embarrased to say that my national hero is also a women chaser), Soekarno married Fatmawati as his third wife. But his problems did not end there. The Japanese asked for preposterous requests such as women (that scene is truly heart-breaking), resources, and Soekarno’s help on their propaganda. Ario Bayu as Soekarno played his role very well to depict Soekarno on those scene, that actually Soekarno did not want those to happen; but for the sake of independence, he did those (half-heartedly). On the other side, Sjahrir continued his undercover independence effort on gathering the nationalist youths to prepare them for their independence. Other than that, Sjahrir also continued his illegal activity of listening to the international radio to check on how the Japanese were doing. To his joy, the Japanese were losing. At the same time, the Japanese force fulfilled their promise towards Soekarno and gave him Indonesia’s independence at Vietnam. But just when Soekarno was about to celebrate this hard-earned achievement when he was kidnapped not long after he got back to Indonesia again. The kidnappers were the ambitious nationalist youths that forced Soekarno and Hatta to proclaim Indonesia’s independence immidiately because Japan had lost the war and therefore Indonesia is without any occupants, for the first time in three centuries. The youths saw this as a golden chance to proclaim Indonesia’s independence. Soekarno and Hatta were not amused being tricked by the Japanese. You see, if Soekarno saw this coming, the downfall of the Japanese force, then Soekarno wouldn’t have to cooperate with the Japanese; letting his people suffer at the hands of them, or worse, killed. The Japanese, true to their words, offered help in the process of proclaiming Indonesia’s independence. Finally, Indonesia was free and independent on the historical 17th of August, 1945.

The original Soekarno reading the proclamation text.
The original Soekarno reading the proclamation text.

Main Characters and Their Stories

Soekarno
Soekarno.
Soekarno.

His original name was actually Kusno, but the name was changed by his father because he was frequently sick (some native Indonesian still believed in the mystic tradition). Soekarno can speak Dutch, Japanese, Javanese, English, and Bahasa Indonesia (as far as I know), so he is a learned man. In the early scenes, Soekarno was seen flirting with a Dutch girl (when he was young). We can conclude that Soekarno was well associated with several upper-class Dutch in his life. Other than that, he is also well-associated with middle-lower class of the local people. So we know that Soekarno is well-associated with two different worlds; the upper and the lower, the occupant and the occupied. It was thanks to his inspiring mentor H.O.S. Cokroaminoto that he became an excellent public orator. Many said his mastery at public oratory in Indonesia is second to none.

Soekarno had many wives. Well, not all at once, but still it’s a bit shocking isn’t it? So don’t be surprised when you meet one of Soekarno’s son or daughter. Perfectly normal.

What else to say about him? Many, actually; but my mind just can’t stop reeling too fast at this point, thus leaving me speechless. But if it helps, I wanted to say that he is no doubt a huge contributor to Indonesia’s independence, and against all other opinion I wanted to say that the image of him valuing lives above everything else is something I truly uphold.

As Terry Pratchett (is his name spelled right? I guess) said it in a fine way (in his book ‘Nation’), “When much is taken, something is returned”. Soekarno had just the faith  to get through all of his people’s suffering to watch the glorious moment of his country’s independence.

Fatmawati
Fatmawati, Soekarno's third wife.
Fatmawati, Soekarno’s third wife.

Sorry to say, my first opinion on this photo was, “yeuch”, and most probably you’re in the same boat as I am. Anyway, onwards to Fatmawati.

The famous wife was played by Tika Bravani, a talented young actress from Indonesia. Historically, Fatmawati is widely-known as the woman who sewed the first Indonesian national flag. Dramatic.

Soekarno married Fatmawati when she was 15 (sounds like Hugh Hefner all over again). Fatma (her shortname) was Soekarno’s student at a school in Bengkulu, taught by Soekarno during his exile. It was her which made Inggit (Soekarno’s second wife) and Soekarno divorce, which gave me a thought about Bob Marley. No woman no cry, right?

Fatma gave birth to to three daughters and two sons; grand total of five, in which four of them, Megawati Soekarnoputri , Sukmawati Soekarnoputri , Rachmawati Soekarnoputri and Guruh Soekarnoputra, is still politically active. Beat that.

Mohammad Hatta
Central figure, up top.
Central figure, up top.

A gorgeous acting was delivered by Lukman Sardi as Mohammad Hatta. I just felt it, you know, the classic hunches you usually get? The actor and the supposed character blended in better than Coffee Beans’ Original Ice Blended, which is saying something (sometimes I prefer Coffee Beans rather than Starbucks).

The calm upbringing he frequently put on is the highlight, because I always thought Mohammad Hatta as the backstage guy, never a spotlight guy. He is a key figure to me because I think he is the middle point between Soekarno and Sjahrir, in which Soekarno prefered submitting to their occupants as a step towards their independence and Sjahrir (a hot-tempered little guy) wanted a rebellion. So yeah, you can say his existence at that situation a ‘divine intervention’.

He is well-known as the first Vice-President of Indonesia and also a friend to Soekarno. There’s probably still much about him but I guess the essence of it is that as the second wheel, you will play a role no less crucial than the big boss. That’s what happened to Hatta anyway; and Nehru, and probably you.

Highlight

At last, highlights. Word count: 1772 (personal record).

I’d like to start with my personal favorite, the one I’ve mentioned in the Letters to Iwo Jima review. It’s about lives, human lives.

Many people were disappointed after watching this movie, (mostly Indonesians) and they have the right to. Who on this particular planet laughed at his/her country’s humiliation? Probably separatists, but I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about us (unless you’re a separatist). Us, as in, people that are proud of their motherland. But after several scenes of Soekarno letting his people suffer at the hands of their occupants, personally the bastards that produced this movie took down several notches on my nationalistic spirit.

Not fun. At all. I am totally not amused.

But after several days, I realized that Soekarno did it out of a belief that he had, and I think that is truly remarkable. To let people harshly treat us in order to give a chance to live for the others is quite a gem.

In my eyes, Soekarno let his people suffer for the greater good. He let them suffer rather than to die in a useless open rebellion (useless, because the Japanese’s military force is superior in almost every aspects) to let them have a taste of independence. Of course you can die when you suffer, but that’s a risk Soekarno is willing to take for the greater good of Indonesia.

See it like this: your parents pushed you to study hard so you can get a good score. Your parents know you might be very unhappy towards them and treat them harshly, but for their son (or daughter, I’m not being sexist), they are willing to take a blow.

Soekarno is, in my eyes, a national ‘father’.

Thank you for reading this. I’m looking forward for comments and corrections. Sampai nanti! (Until then!)

The Fall: Out of Darkness

No, no, this is not the Gillian Anderson TV series.

This is, by far, the most underrated film I’ve ever seen. And the thought of people underrating this movie makes me a bit upset. I watched this film in the same weekend with Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy masterpiece, Pan’s Labyrinth. Unbeknownst to me, both of these 2006-released fantasy movies brought me a huge amount of feelings and partly teenage angst. The difference? One of them is Oscar-celebrated. Well, damn, I wished the Oscars had picked the /other/ fantasy movie to be celebrated. (Doesn’t mean that I didn’t like Pan’s Labyrinth, in fact, I praise both movies in a spiritual way, but I thought The Fall was a bit better than Labyrinth.)

The Fall was set in a 1920s hospital just outside Los Angeles. It tells a tale of Roy Walker, a stuntman who got his leg injured and taken care in the hospital. On a random turn of events, he met the cheerful little Alexandria, with a broken arm. In exchange of helping him getting morphine from the hospital pharmacy, the stuntman told the little girl an epic story of five heroes on a mission to defy a big bad.

This film defines what storytelling meant to us in our childhood; well, at least, mine. When people tell me stories, I imagine them vividly as something real and epic. I imagine the characters to be “faceclaimed” by someone I know (Wait, I still do that! But now, with celebrities). In the story Roy told her, Alexandria imagined the characters’ faces as personas she met in the hospital. The movie’s imagery shifts between reality in the hospital and fantasy in Alexandria’s mind. As the film goes on, the line between fantasy and reality started to blur, and /feelings/ started to conquer the story.

Oh, and speaking about the imagery, this film offers you heaps of A+ costume design and cinematography porn. There’s no adjective accurate enough to explain it! The landscapes makes you want to puke rainbows and fly into the sun; it just seems so unreal. The costume design might remind you of Queen Amidala from Star Wars; the difference is that it fuses culture and fantasy into one beautiful melting pot. The interpretation of Alexandria’s imagination is deeper than ever. (Also, this film was shot in 28 countries for 4 years. THAT isn’t CGI, you guys. That is honest, plain, Mother Earth – the creativity and marvel of landscapes that humans can’t even match or compete.)

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The Five Musketeers! Oops, wrong movie…
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Now, /this/ is cinematography.
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If you tell me this isn’t pretty, you are lying.

Oh, and have I mentioned that one of the scenes filmed in this movie was filmed in Bali and featured Tari Kecak?

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You’re welcome.

Aside from the artistic beauty of this wonderful film, there were also beautiful performances by Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug) and newcomer Catinca Untaru in portraying the troubled Roy and the joyous Alexandria. They might’ve gone a little bit melodramatic, but their performances are as realistic as the real world. You never knew Thranduil could act this good. (He also did a GREAT job as Thranduil; if you haven’t seen Lee Pace in The Hobbit, see the film now.)

Tarsem Singh pulled off a beautiful direction and also a beautiful storyline that will make you consume a month’s stock of Kleenex. He puts in little quirks of childhood adorable-ness and adventure-y tropes amidst the getting-darker-storyline. He could sneakily destroy our hearts while keeping us in our seats – he makes us want our hearts to be broken by the story. Why? The morphine gives you a clue – you know where this leads to. One thing is for sure: this movie is about saving someone.

In conclusion: this movie is something out of a dream. Wondrous cinematography, costume design, story, and acting sums it all. EVERYONE should watch it, in fact! (Oops, no kids, though. Brief amounts of graphic gore is visible.) Go watch it, and I’ll be waiting as you rip your wet Kleenex while screaming in vain.

5/5

Frozen : Ironically Melts Your Heart

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DAMN ELSA YOU LOOK GOOD

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Okay, so yeah, I’m gonna review this movie as you may know from the title. Let me start with how I will review this movie. First of all, I’m not gonna be very fair because I have a weird and strong attraction towards young animated Disney princesses. Yes, you heard it; I don’t know whats the cause of this, maybe because they are just too perfect to be real and I am a desperate man. Well onto the *non spoiler* review

OVERALL REVIEW

The whole movie (I think) is derived from the fairy tale created by Hans Christian Anderson, which is entitled Kai and the Snow Queen. Basically in short (in his version), the Snow Queen is evil and was cursed with these trolls and stuff. But in this Disney princess version, they decided to make a bold exciting tweak to this story.

“What if she was just misunderstood?” And yes, that’s what happened. What I like about how she was misunderstood was we really think that she’s not evil, we’re kind of on her side; but we also notice how she herself think she is acting a bit ‘unpleasant’, in a way, and she has this self-aware look on her face that I’ve noticed. That’s one of the best parts of Disney animation, which they show very amazing expressions on the characters and make them feel real and alive. As the story continues, we feel more and more depth on the world and character that this world is in. Meeting new characters in the middle of the journey; either love interest, comic relief, or potential douchebags. As we go in the journey, we don’t forget about the singing. Ah yes, the singing parts. Such a classic tradition on Disney movies. This movie had pretty solid musics throughout, but not as good as the music in tangled (based on personal taste).

The Disney kiss (Tangled).
The Disney kiss (Tangled).

The romance in this movie is pretty simple to guess; it’s not as good as Tangled’s, but I still bought it. It wouldn’t be a Disney movie without a prince and a princess, am I right? The comedy on this movie is pretty funny, and again based on personal taste. We know that this movie takes place in the kingdom-ish era; we know its not modern, but how the characters are portrayed were very up-to-date with us today, and how they speak is a great appeal to me; makes them way more relatable, and comic, at the same time.

“Some people are worth melting for.”

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SPOILER REVIEW

COMING SOON

A Beautiful Mind: The Courage of The Heart

The only thing greater than the power of the mind is the courage of the heart.
The only thing greater than the power of the mind is the courage of the heart.

Truthfully, I really love the poster from the bottom of my heart. There is another version of this movie’s poster, but I think the one that described what the movie is about more accurately is this one. Even more truthful, I just can’t stop loving the movie. One word to describe it all: touching.

Synopsis

This movie actually has the similar conflict with the movie Forrest Gump, where the main character has a mental problem. The difference is Forrest Gump suffers a low IQ, while here the main character suffered from schizophrenia. Who is the main character? It is no other than the celebrated John Nash; the 1994 Nobel Economic Sciences prize, and guess what? He is still alive! Basically, this movie is a biography of John Nash coping with his paranoia, which is caused by his mental illness (schizophrenia). Nash, an exceptional mathematician, is an asocial, paranoid, and an eccentric figure. He is obsessed by finding an original theory during his early times at Princeton, and he finally did (in a bar). For the revolutionary theory he has found, he managed to get a position in a prestigious wing in MIT (Wheeler Lab; but in fact, this is actually fiction. See http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2002/nash-0213.html) since then, he taught classes and utilized the facilities MIT has lent them with his two partners, Sol and Bender. Since he got married with one of his students, his delusions reached a new low; he began to believe that he was a part of some secret service that has the intention to stop a communist party from succeeding in blowing up a ‘portable nuke’ on American soil. Nash was supposed to look for codes that was embedded in magazines (such as LIFE) and deliver them to a drop location where he will collect the ‘confidential documents’ to a postbox. This delusional conspiracy he is involved in made him more and more paranoid by the day, until his wife, Mrs. Alicia Larde reported his paranoid behavior to a psychiatry hospital. The recognition of his mental illness opened up a new chapter, as Nash took medications and therapies and struggled to cope with his dulled mind (side-effect of the medications he took). He finally couldn’t stand it anymore and secretly skipped his medications, which caused his delusions to come back. Nash, believing he is still in the ‘secret conspiracy’, continued his obsession with cracking codes embedded in magazines while neglecting his household duties. His wife finally finds out about this, and at first went mad at him. But soon Nash figured out by himself (intellectually, as he put it) that his delusion IS a delusion that is not real. This, again, opens up a new page for him, where with the enormous dedication from his wife he attempted to cope with his mental disorder without medication. There are several times where he reluctantly willing to go back to his medication, as he couldn’t stand his mental delusions anymore, but with the support of his good wife, he went through. This story about a brilliant man with ‘two helpings of brain but half a helping of heart’ is overall heartbreaking and introduced the world of a schizophrenic to our common eyes. To me, personally, this movie is a close second to Forrest Gump, whereas Forrest Gump has more humor in it. The soundtrack is truly exceptional. It produces the subtlety yet escalated tension in several action-packed scenes very well. It blended very well with all of the scenes in the movie. The song itself also described the whole core of the movie in a delicate and precise way. Top class, and must I say; tres bien! Russell Crowe was very natural in this movie. He speaks in a West Virginian accent so fluently that I am leaded to believe he is originally from West Virginia, which is not true. His act as a schizophrenic person is also a gem of this movie. He used body gestures all the time to appear agitated, and he also arranged his facial expression in what I must say, appeared to be a ‘disturbing person’s’. The four right words to describe Jennifer Connelly in this movie is perhaps  ‘seducing, attractive, patient, and smart’ in this movie. But in my opinion, there is one word to describe it all: ‘aggressive’. Yes folks, her eyes can pierce through yours and her voice, soothing as it seems, have the power to make you submit to her. I might as well imagine Yoda saying, “Strong, the force is inside her. Aggressive, she did not look. Out, watch.” Credits also must be given to Paul Bettany and Ed Harris for being a ‘perfect delusion’ in Nash’s world. Ed’s naturally great act made me believe that at first, Nash is actually involved in a real conspiracy; while Paul’s exceptional act made me believe that he really do exist. Somehow, in a way, both of them made me relate to a schizophrenic’s world.

Introduction

So what is schizophrenia? Let’s beam up our old ‘know-it-all’ pal, Wikipedia.

“Schizophrenia (/ˌskɪtsɵˈfrɛniə/ or /ˌskɪtsɵˈfrniə/) is a mental disorder characterized by a breakdown of thought processes and by impaired emotional responses. Common symptoms include delusions, such as paranoid beliefshallucinationsdisorganized thinking; and negative symptoms, such as blunted affect and avolition.” Wikipedia

Below is a self-portrait of a schizophrenic.

Courtesy of Wikipedia. Such a helpful pal.
Courtesy of Wikipedia. Such a helpful pal.

I can’t say I understood all of the above before watching the movie. To my former self, hallucinations of a schizophrenic must be something that is temporary, easy to shrug off. But I never thought schizophrenia could drive someone to his/her edge only from their own hallucinations. This movie showed me that to a schizophrenic, the line between reality and its counterpart is a very fine one. I’d like to coin a phrase from Nash’s psychiatrist at this point:

“Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been. What kind of hell would that be?” Dr. Rosen, Beautiful Mind

That guy certainly knows what he’s talking about.

Main Characters and Their Stories

In total, there are several important characters that arguably earned the dignified position as the main character. But I will crown only two out of the lot, since the story basically spins on this particularly courageous couple; John Nash (Russell Crowe) and his wife, Mrs. Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly).

There has to be a mathematical explanation for how bad that tie is.
There has to be a mathematical explanation for how bad that tie is.
I'm sorry, just give me a moment to redefine my girlish notions of romance.
I’m sorry, just give me a moment to redefine my girlish notions of romance.

As I said before, the movie was touching. But to be more particular, it is actually courageous. The only thing that drives Nash is courage; a courage given by his wife’s dedication, and for the first time Nash cannot rely on logic and reasons alone. It is courage that he held onto, his belief that he can overcome his mental disability without medication; the courage that he acquired from his wondrous wife, Mrs. Larde.

There’s not much of a background to Alicia Larde in the movie, so let’s talk a bit about her.

Her full name is Alicia Esther Lopez-Harrison de Lardé; quite a name, and she was born in San Salvador in El Salvador. She was smart and has an ambition to be ‘the next Marie Curie’. She first met Nash at an Advanced Calculus for Engineers class and, let’s just say the term ‘love at first sight’ is a perfect fit to the situation.

“A pair of odd ducks, then.” John Nash, Beautiful Mind

Highlights

I will discuss about the ability of the disabled first as a tribute to all with the problem. Disability, you might say, literally disabled you effectively to live the life of other normal people’s. But as my old man said, when a door is closed, another will open somewhere; you just need to look for it. Take a look at John Nash. He is paranoid all the time, putting it mildly, as well as his son. Both of them became mathematician of prestige; John Nash earned a Nobel prize, and his son earned the privilege of being a top chess player and an artist. Look at it this way: a disability made you impossible to improve in some skills, which made you focus more on doing what you can; which made you sharpened those skills more frequently than normal people does. Normal people are like jack-of-all-trade-but-master-of-none, but disabled people (I really think I need to switch the term ‘disabled into ‘special’ here) are, you can say, an ‘ace’-of-a-trade.

What is that? You said you’re normal, unfortunately? Well folks, here’s the good news: normal means more options! What I just said earlier above is the TENDENCY of what normal people did, not their ‘fate’. Look at it this way: you can be anything you want, you just need to FOCUS (my old man always said that). Normal people usually didn’t get anywhere because they don’t focus on only one thing, instead they ‘greedily’ try everything they wanted to be. The result? They’re usually halfway this and that, never reaching their final destination. Focus, my folks, is the key; and ‘special’ people are just so good about it (Come to think about it, I think this lesson is best learned from the famed movie Forrest Gump. Recommended at the best).

That’s not it. The main highlight of this movie is actually the power of the heart; the power of love, belief, and courage. In a deleted scene, John Nash has said: “Perhaps it is good to have a beautiful mind, but an even greater gift is to discover a beautiful heart.”

“Perhaps it is good to have a beautiful mind, but an even greater gift is to discover a beautiful heart.” John Nash, Beautiful Mind

At the beginning of the movie, Nash was supposedly told by his elementary teacher that he has ‘two helpings of brain but half a helping of heart’. Now most of us nowadays usually think that actually it is good to be that way, and that is why most of us are wrong. As John Nash put it delicately when he made a speech directed to his wife, “I’ve made the most important discovery of my life. It’s only in the mysterious equation of love that any logic or reasons can be found. I’m only here tonight because of you. You are the only reason I am… you are all my reasons.”

“I’ve made the most important discovery of my life. It’s only in the mysterious equation of love that any logic or reasons can be found. I’m only here tonight because of you. You are the only reason I am… you are all my reasons.” John Nash, Beautiful mind

To put it in an easier term, who will you choose for your lifetime partner in a deserted island; a brilliant and multi-functional robot which did not know any emotions, or a stupid, dumb, and slow human that has ‘twice the helping of heart’? If you pick the first, then I’ll stay away from you. If that makes you happy, then you are most definitely not a person, because a human is always in need of an emotional embrace as part of their social need. Take John Nash for an example. Without his loving, caring, and supporting wife, he’ll be a hobo for sure. According to Sylvia Nasar, Nash’s biography author: “If she hadn’ t taken him in, he would have wound up on the streets.”  Deep down, a person; however asocial he/she is, will always need that emotional embrace. They need someone who loved them from the heart, care for them no matter what, and support them in a time of distress.

John Nash: "And then, on the way home, Charles was there again. Sometimes I miss talking to him. Maybe Rosen is right. Maybe I have to think about going back to the hospital."  Alicia Larde: "Maybe try again tomorrow."
John Nash: “And then, on the way home, Charles was there again. Sometimes I miss talking to him. Maybe Rosen is right. Maybe I have to think about going back to the hospital.”
Alicia Larde: “Maybe try again tomorrow.”

Review: An easy 4/5.

Tanah Surga… Katanya: The Diamond in the Rough

Despite what other people think of, I think sociology is one of the best classes in school. The main reason is that we get to watch a film, like, every month. And, best of all, not just any easy film, but award-winning ones. I watched three films in total so far in sociology class. The first one’s Alangkah Lucunya Negeri Ini, a film about a business graduate teaching pickpockets to sell goods, which represented Indonesia in the 2008 Oscars foreign language film submissions. The next one’s The Pianist, a film about a Jewish pianist surviving the holocaust, which won three Oscars including best director for Roman Polanski and best actor for Adrien Brody. The third one is the one I’m going to write about; the winner of the 2012 Piala Citra for best film, TANAH SURGA… KATANYA.

The film tells about the life of Salman, a child living in a Kalimantan village near the borders between Indonesia and Malaysia. His dad aims to live and work in Malaysia, but his grandfather disagrees. Eventually, his dad and his sister move to Malaysia and Salman and his grandfather stays. He then witnesses life in his village, how his schoolteacher struggles to strenghten her students’ patriotism between the blurred lines of Indonesia and Malaysia’s national conduct in the village, and a new doctor who copes with Salman’s grandfather’s degrading health.

A still from the film
A still from the film

The movie’s show stealer is Osa Aji Santoso, who awed audiences as the fragile yet determined Salman, and he acts the final scene brilliantly, in all honesty. Yet, the movie’s actual charm lies on its cinematography and music. As the opening credits roll, the sights of a Kalimantan lake delights us, the gleaming blue sky roaming across the horizon, with several hills like green carpets at the background. The enigmatic, cultural, and captivating score by Thoersi Agreswara opens the film and hints at the film’s cultural background.

The film’s strengths, apart from the score and the cinematography, also lie on the plotline. The neverending conflict between Malaysia and Indonesia and the longing of Indonesian people to move to better countries (which, in extremities, leads to a loss of nationalism) is the foundation of this story, brilliantly highlighted by the setting of a village by the borders of Indonesia and Malaysia. The visible issues in the village addressed by the new local doctor are issues that aren’t visible in this country as a whole, yet it still exists. The story raises questions of nationalism and decisions.

The witty dialogues of the film revolves around a popular Koes Plus song called “Kolam Susu”, hence the title (“Orang bilang tanah kita tanah surga” – everyone says our land is heaven on earth). The ironical concept of the movie leads us to questions to reflect. Why won’t residents of the border village embrace and love their own country, while foreigners crave our beauty and prestige? Will we fight for our country, even though other countries are way better in our opinions?

I recommend you to watch this movie (especially if you are an Indonesian who is losing faith about this country) and think about it.

4/5

Originally posted in: mendeleevs.blogspot.com