Pevita Pearce as Hayati. (Courtesy of Soraya Intercine Films)
Tenggelamnya Kapal Van der Wijck (The Sinking of van der Wijck) — an adaptation of a late 1930s Indonesian novel of the same title penned by Haji Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah, who is better known as Hamka — tells of a powerful but tragic love story.
The two-hour-and-45-minute long film, which hit theaters on Dec. 19, is set in 1930s Nusantara, which is now modern day Indonesia.
Zainuddin — an orphan played wonderfully by rising actor Herjunot Ali (5cm and Realita, Cinta dan Rock ‘n Roll, or Reality, Love and Rock ‘n Roll) — is a son of a Minang father and a Bugis mother.
After years of living in his mother’s hometown of Makassar, Zainuddin is eager to learn more about his father’s heritage.
Blessed by his nanny and helped by a healthy amount of money in his pocket, he begins his journey to Batipuh in Minangkabau.
In the land that boasts a strong matriarchal system, Zainuddin’s presence is not given a warm welcome, given that his mother was Bugis.
While trying to fit in, Zainuddin meets Hayati (Pevita Pearce), the most beautiful girl in the village, who happens to be a pure Minang of aristocratic descent.
Unlike other villagers, Hayati develops a true, sincere friendship with Zainuddin, which turns into love. This budding relationship is not met with a positive reaction and Zainuddin is rejected due to his muddied Minang roots.
Aziz (Reza Rahadian, in white suit), with the company of Hayati, meets Zainuddin (Herjunot Ali, right). (Courtesy of Soraya Intercine Films)
Zainuddin move to nearby Padang Panjang: only leaving Hayati after she promises that her heart is forever his.
The story takes a bitter turn when Hayati is courted by her best friend’s brother, Aziz (Reza Rahadian), a wealthy and modern Minang guy, who is enchanted by Hayati’s beauty.
Back home, Hayati’s family receives marriage proposals from both Aziz and Zainuddin, but her family, believing that Aziz will provide her stability, forces her to break her promise to Zainuddin.
Torn apart by the rejection, Zainuddin is determined to leave the tragedy behind and travels to Java to pursue his writing career with the support of his best friend Muluk (Randy “Nidji”).
In Batavia, Zainuddin finds success with his novel, Teroesir (Outcast). But the past catches up with him when he crosses paths with Hayati once more.
In the film, which took five years to make, director Sunil stays faithful to the original story.
Writer Imam Tantowi in collaboration with young Donny Dhirgantoro (writer of the novel and screenplay for 5cm) produces a down-to-earth screenplay without losing the classic feel of a period romance.
Herjunot delivers a stunning performance, maintaining his Makassar accent as well as his dramatic posture throughout the film. Pevita, however, has yet to offer a consistent performance.
Meanwhile, Reza, who just won Best Leading Actor at the 2013 Indonesian Film Festival (FFI) for his performance in Habibie & Ainun, balances Herjunot’s character well.
The film is also pleasing to the eye, with extravagant suits, scarves, retro sunglasses and hats, all courtesy of prominent designer Samuel Wattimena.
Tenggelamnya Kapal Van der Wijck
(165 minutes, Soraya Intercine Films)
Director: Sunil Soraya
Screenwriters: Imam Tantowi, Donny Dhirgantoro
Cast: Herjunot Ali, Reza Rahadian, Pevita Pearce, Randy “Nidji”, Gesya Shandy, Arzeti Bilbina, Kevin Andrean, Jajang C. Noer
Producers: Ram Soraya, Sunil Soraya
Paper Edition | Page: 12