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'Dilan 1990': Romantic, with just the right amount of cheese

Asmara Wreksono
Asmara Wreksono

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Wed, February 14, 2018 | 05:16 pm

A feature movie that defies all theories of screenwriting is a recipe for disaster, one might think, but not in the case of Dilan 1990.

A screen adaptation or, more accurately, a screen version of the book Dilan: Dia Adalah Dilanku Tahun 1990 (Dilan: He’s My Dilan in 1990) by Pidi Baiq, Dilan 1990 chronicles the romantic endeavors of two teenagers, Dilan and Milea. 

Narrated from Milea’s point of view, the story, which is set in 1990, begins when Milea, a new student who transferred from Jakarta to a Bandung high school, meets Dilan, the resident bad boy and notorious commander of a local motorcycle gang. Milea first tried to keep him at arm’s length, because of his negative image, but she slowly falls for Dilan’s charm.

Dilan’s rather unorthodox approaches to catch Milea’s attention is probably the element that makes the audience, too, fall in love with the main character, perfectly portrayed by newcomer slash teenage heartthrob Iqbaal Ramadhan. He embodies Dilan’s seemingly quiet but charismatic demeanor, without being overly styled as a typical motorcycle gang rebel.

While Dilan’s confidence soars through from the very first moments of the movie and makes him a little bit fictional, Milea, portrayed by Vanesha Prescilla, has the right mix of innocence, wit and self-doubt, making the character a believable 17-year-old girl living in the pre-social media era. 

Read also: 'Dilan 1990' claims box office fame as one of most-watched local movies

The lack of the common three-act structure in Dilan 1990 puts the story of Dilan and Milea in the center of events rather than your typical teenage drama. Mini conflicts, such as the existence of other potential suitors for Milea and the verbally abusive long-distance boyfriend, do exist. However, instead of building these up on a dramatic curve culminating in conflict at the climax, before being resolved in the end, the movie presents conflicts as little bumps along the storyline that amazingly help form the story’s entirety. It feels more like being absorbed in someone’s diary than watching an intentionally written fictional story, which at times is more interesting.

Dilan’s very Indonesian sweet talk evokes enough ick factor that makes viewers realize that they were once silly romantics like Dilan and Milea (or still are, for the younger generation). The level of cheesiness may be high for some, but just right for most who have been through Indonesian high school in the nineties. Although it has a thick Bandung flavor and retro treatment, the movie magically transcends generations and cultural backgrounds. 

Dilan 1990 has garnered more than 5 million viewers in less than one month, beating last year’s Pengabdi Setan, which garnered a total of 4.7 million viewers. It’s the ideal movie to watch with your very own girl squad, as it will bring back memories, probably not about a certain person, but about the feelings caused by innocent puppy love. After all, what's romance without a little bit of cheese?

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