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Whispering Sands (2001)
"Pasir berbisik" (original title)

 -  Drama  -  18 May 2002 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 138 users  
Reviews: 6 user | 2 critic

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Credited cast:
Dian Sastrowardoyo ...
Slamet Rahardjo ...
Didi Petet ...
Dik Doank ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Dessy Fitri ...
Karlina Inawati ...
Dewi Sawitri ...
Bidan Suri
Mang Udel ...


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Finally! Artistically and technically satisfying Indo-cinema.
13 March 2003 | by (Londn, England) – See all my reviews

I feel compelled to write a review, my first one in any shape or form, after having watched this surprising movie. Surprising, in a sense that I was looking for something with a bit more of a polish and satisfaction from an Indonesian (my country of origin) movie. After purchasing VCDs of `Bintang jatuh', `Jelangkung', `Ada apa dengan cinta' and being disappointed to mildly entertained, I was glad to have left this little gem till last. First off, I am film buff and an avid DVD collector. I need to watch movies, undisturbed, on a big widescreen TV, with full surround sound using the best video quality presentation available (with all my purchases, I scour the internet for which country and which edition offers the best possible quality). This movie came on a bog standard VCD where the end of the first disc showed far too many technical flaws and glitches. However, that has not ruined my enjoyment of the film. and that speaks volumes.

There wasn't a part where I stopped caring for the characters or wondered about the life they lead. The viewer is not fed everything (thank GOD). Dialogue is kept almost to a minimum. The movie communicates much of the characters' intentions through the physical acting, which was done convincingly. The interpretation is left to the audience, but motivations are fairly easy to read. The story is simple, but the movie takes its time and tells it wonderfully. The long but beautiful shots of the barren landscapes are never out of place, giving the viewer time to think about and absorb what happened previously. Pacing is good, except for the slightly long opening title scenes. The move did seem a little slow at first, but I just had to get used to pace.

Dian Sastro delivers a quite mature performance (when compared to her other movies). Still, I find it a little controversial for her to have gained a best actress award. She ranged from irritating at times to convincing, but thankfully, more of the latter. She handled the transition from her innocence at the start to her realisations of the real world and her needs towards the latter parts quite well and delivers some moving performances. I couldn't fault the other performers, and their interactions with eachother and this where the movie truly works well. There is not just ONE actor or actress who would carry the movie and the casting was superbly done. Christine Hakim as Daya's weary, possessive yet caring mother. Slamet Rahardjo as the tragic father. her teacher, her friend, her aunt, the `helper'. they all play their parts well, and their characters are interesting, but together, the chemistry works! Even if giving the admittedly attractive Sastro the role seemed a little out of place at first, that aspect of hers does become important for her shocking, yet slightly predictable circumstance towards the end.

My experience with Indonesian movies only extends as far as the ones mentioned above, and they would naturally set the benchmark for Pasir Berbisik. I would say though, that this movie holds up well against movies from more `movie mature' countries. Stories of tragedy and hardship (e.g. Grave of the Fireflies) are powerful in that they always seem to trigger a stronger emotional response from the audience, and the feeling lingers on as the credits roll. Pasir Berbisik is no exception. For me, it was compelling, moving and shocking in parts. The movie seemed to have been set in a different period, but objects from everyday Indonesian live turned up here and there, taking me back to the dreadful truth.

In terms of technical achievement, it overshadows the previous movies (The many quiet moments also let me enjoy some of the beautiful cinematography). Quite possibly, the collaboration with NHK was a big factor, but it is something I welcomed and look forward to in future movies. Music also lets down so many movies. Thankfully, Thoersi Argeswara's compositions are subtle and low key, but moving and suitable enough to lends the movie immersive ness. I would like to go on about this, but I think I've taken up too much space already.

This is a wonderful achievement by the director, crew and artists. For me it was, to put it simply, totally satisfying. I eagerly await a comprehensive DVD release, which this film so richly deserves (maybe one will come out in Japan?). On a final note, I don't agree with IMDB's recommendation for `Ada apa dengan cinta?'. Other than having the same actress and coming from the same country and maybe some subtle similarities in that parts focus on family sociology (if you stretch your imagination), they are miles apart in terms of quality (IMHO).

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