I'll be honest, I'm not a big fan of Malaysian movies. To be even more honest, I *dislike* Malaysian movies. But hey, with a movie scene plagued with ridiculously clichéd love story lines, even more ridiculously clichéd characters, stupid comic relief characters, can you really blame me? When I read about Sepet pretty much gobbling up all the awards in the 2005 Malaysian Film Festival, and with such hype and controversy surrounding the movie, you can imagine I was more than just a little curious... so I watched it.
And let me tell ye something, this movie isn't only as good as I expected it to be, it's better than I ever hoped it to be! It's a simple story, really - Orked, a Malay girl from a well-off family, living in a contemporary city environment, with a soft spot for pretty-much-everything-Chinese, falls in love with Jason, an average Chinese guy, a VCD vendor pushed about by gangsters. As the story unfolds, we are presented with the world that Orked and Jason live in - their friends, families, and day to day lives - along with some buried tales of the past.
Sure enough, the plot doesn't sound like something completely original
one girl, one boy, from completely different backgrounds, fall in
love. What makes this movie so good is the execution in everything, and especially depth of the characters in Sepet. Each one of them - from Jason's mother, to the couple themselves, even right down to Orked's maid (!) - all have deep, interesting personalities. Each of them creates a beautiful atmosphere, and the viewers are immersed completely into the lives of Orked and Jason. And director Yasmin Ahmad actually makes you feel like you care for these characters, and will take you on a roller-coaster ride of emotions as we feel the world they live in. To top it off, the regular doses of humour (especially from Orked's parents, played by Ida Nerina and Harris Iskandar) fit in well with the pacing and overall atmosphere of Sepet, adds some flair and colour to the story but never goes overboard. I heard the actors were never given scripts and were to improvise the characters themselves - Don't know how true this is, but if that's a way of praising the superb performance by the actors and actresses in the movie, I wholeheartedly agree!
But what REALLY sets this movie aside from all the other Malaysian movies out there today, is that Sepet isn't just a deep love story with bright characters, it's a painfully realistic outlook into the world of city life in Malaysia. The conflicting cultures, imperfection and sincerity in people, the underlying truths beneath each untold story, insecurity, repentance, trust.. the list goes on. I'm particularly impressed with how Yasmin Ahmad is not afraid to display common stereotypes in Malaysia - races, age, social hierarchy, etc. It is shockingly realistic, and it's not surprising why this movie did stir up some controversy back home.
Overall, this is perhaps the best Malaysian movie I've seen in recent memory, and I'm hard pressed to deny that this is the best Malaysian movie ever, and perhaps one of the few which I dare say is good enough for international standards. Kudos and hats off to Yasmin Ahmad; Great stuff!
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