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Soe Hok Gie is an activist who lived in the sixties. Set in the darkest era of Indonesian modern history, GIE is an interpretation of what happened based on his journal. He is a history student when his world stretches between politics and personal life. A critical young man, he sounds his great concerns about his collapsing nation. Yet, he is sensitive and romantic. He loves to explore the mountains, to admire the great beauty of nature. His life is a clash between the high drama of national political events and the small world of friendship and romance. He is falling apart when he sees that his constant battle for justice and truth gives labor to another dictatorial regime, and caused the massacre of millions suspected communists, including his childhood friend. He continues to fight but his uncompromised idealism drives people away. His best friends left him. The woman he loves rejects him. From time to time, nature is a place where Gie finds peace and it's where his life comes to ... Written by
Soe Hok Gie:
The history of the world is one of oppression. The question is, can there be history without oppression or without sadness and betrayal? It's like, when studying history, the only thing we find is betrayal. It is there, in each and every part of our life, and yet we can do nothing about it. How very tragic this is. But "life is suffering," so says the Buddha, and people cannot escape from it.
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Eventually, Gie was released. The latest production of Indonesian potential director, Riri Riza. Prior to the release, its pre-distribution strategy "Gie Road to Campus" had successfully created public opinion and awareness about the film.
In fact, during the first 15 minutes, the opening scenes failed to introduce the film to its audience, triggered by abundant amount of scenes on young Gie. As a result, these excessive scenes only had weakened 'the introduction' itself. Quite regrettably though, the story failed to focus since its first minutes.
The screenplay, written by Riza himself, left several chances to sharpen its angles. The director should not have depended heavily on its plotting structure that was already too linear. The emotional development, seemed uniform at almost all scenes and sequences. While motion picture consisted of such a complex dramaturgy, which meant emotional fluctuation of the story should be assured, the climax of Gie's anger, concern, idealism, and restlessness was nowhere to be felt.
It was not known in which drawer the director kept his film's climax. Apparently Riza was trapped by collecting piece by piece of Soe Hok Gie's masterpieces of thoughts and ideas. Yet, the director did not arrange them into a whole unity as a cinematography piece of work that obviously demanded entertainment values.
In addition, the narration technique was too weary to follow. Gie was preaching instead of talking. It was true, a personality like Soe Hok Gie by no means wrote his diary in such way as that of 'Boy' wrote his diary (Catatan si Boy/Boy's Diary, was the country's box office film in the 1990s). But again, this challenge should have been cracked in advance.
Yes, at the ending Riza had inserted narration to finally inform his audience that Soe Hok Gie was also an ordinary human being, who could be in love as well. Through the narration of his letter to Ira (Sita RSD), it was known that he too, could fall into such magnificent feeling of love. Sadly, the scenes depicting humanly sides of Gie were only found at the last minutes. Because from the beginning, Soe Hok Gie's was illustrated as rigid, idealistic and nearly utopian character.
The dramaturgy imperfection apparently had not been covered by strengthen other elements.
Characterization and relationship between characters were repeatedly neglected. Many characters and scenes occurred without sufficient explanation, or some hints to explain them.
What relationship Gie and Arief Budiman had? Why Father (Robbie Tumewu) was always quiet and looked sad? What kind of traumatic experiences he went through? Why Mother still could shop with bag full when others had to queue up for fuel? Why Gie was offered a prostitute? Why Ira, an activist and outspoken demonstrant, was just speechless when a man cheated on her? Who was Herman Lantang? Why for fighting, Gie was always protected by friends? Plenty characters were introduced, plenty scenes were performed, but plenty more empty spaces remained without fullfiling explanation.
However, Nicholas Saputra who played the lead role as adult Soe Hok Gie, had radiantly showed his exceptional acting talent. Plus his nearly perfect adaptation to his character. But again, linear plotting made Soe Hok Gie as student activist, lecturer, intimidation victim, or a man in love, occurred almost without different pulses.
This film could have been rescued by beautiful and accurate cinematography. Having Yudi Datau as the Director of Photography, however, it rarely depicted beautiful and impressive shots. Bear in mind, the demonstration scenes on the streets were potentially exploitable. These scenes should have been occupied by colossal and unforgettable shots, although idea of fists in close up was already powerful. However, up to the end of the movie, numerous scenes that were supposed to be dramatic fell flat on the camera.
It was true, the attempt to depict Jakarta in its 50s and 60s deserved appreciation. However, Iri Supit's effort as the Art Director was surprisingly not that tremendous. Jakarta just looked gloomy and filthy. Gie's books were as worn out as the wall in his house. Supit also used the same type of fonts on every board and sign.
However, what more urgent was, the failure to snatch the changing of sequences. Particularly from Gie as a student to the sequence of him being a lecturer, due to the artistic decision to provide similar wardrobe and hairstyle. Abruptly, during the ending scenes, Gie appeared wearing dark red shirt and modern jeans just like a cover boy model.
Despite all the restlessness, Riza and his team deserved appreciation and salute, for their bravery to dig down into the national dark history. The history, no matter dark or shiny, for long time seemed to be the government's property only.
Amongst increasing numbers of films produced and small numbers of quality ones, no doubt glorious expectation was addressed to this Miles production. Quite understandable, indeed, since it based on a true story of one of many unsung heroes. This time a bright student whose 'rebellious' thoughts had smashed the Old Order tyrant and in turn, smacked the New Order regime. Thus, for this decision alone, Riza and Mira Lesmana the producer deserved double thumb up.
Besides, Indonesian moviegoers had been hunger to watch films with accountable cinematographic qualities. They had been starving to have national films to be proud of. Although in this case, the Gie's cinematography achievement was not yet that satisfactory.
Along with the release of Gie, this country also released one of its duties, in order to pass on its great struggles to its young generations. From a person, who had left golden trail in this country's history to freedom and democracy. From Gie, from a promising filmmaker, Riri Riza. (nenen)
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