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Film adaptation of 'Laut Bercerita' restrained, but powerful

Michael Johansen

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Mon, January 8, 2018  /  08:19 am
Film adaptation of 'Laut Bercerita' restrained, but powerful

Disappearing: A scene in Laut Bercerita short film. (

The short film opens in blackness and momentary silence. Soon, however — still without seeing anything — we learn exactly what is happening when we hear blows fall and almost feel the pain inflicted through the agonized grunts of the victim.

By the time the lights come up, revealing a stark cell with a prisoner being brutalized, we can feel the suffering.

Such simple yet effective storytelling is followed throughout the short film Laut Bercerita (The Sea Speaks His Name), an adaptation of Leila S. Chudori’s latest novel bearing the same title.

Read also: Leila S. Chudori’s evolving journey

The simplicity leaves much explicitly unexplained, but the meaning of the scenes are nonetheless implicitly clear: family dinners, a phone call in the rain, lives rotting behind bars, a floating memorial. With quiet understatement they all shout out their horrifying significance, first filling the audience with pity and outrage and then almost draining them of emotion with the intensity of the experience.

Laut Bercerita takes a long, complex novel of almost 400 pages and tells the story in less than 30 minutes. 

The short film is not only visually powerful, but also masterfully written, directed and edited. Tying it all together is a cast of both well-known and lesser-known actors, whose largely controlled performances lend even more depth to an already profound story.

Directed by Pritagita Arianegara (Salawaku, 2016) and penned by Leila herself, the film features big names, such as Reza Rahadian, Ayushita Nugraha, Dian Sastrowardoyo and Tio Pakusadewo. Several activists also make an appearance in the film, namely Tanta Ginting, Ade Firman Hakim and Haydar Saliszh.

Perhaps the most moving scene is delivered with devastating restraint by Bali-born stage actor Aryani Willems, who depicts a mother who seems innocuous at first, but comes to utterly dominate with her simple telling of a dream that encapsulates the grief of the moment and the need to somehow move forward to something better.

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