Nice array of characters, some questionable details
Merah Putih was set in 1947, the producer's homage to especially his relatives, a 21-year old lieutenant and a 16-year old cadet, who died defending the republic during the time. This film boasts of a crew that also comprises of experts who have been involved in blockbusters like The Dark Knight and Blackhawk Down.
Amir (played by perhaps the greatest Indonesian actor of the new generation, Lukman Sardi) was a teacher who at first refused to join the battles. But after one of his student died in the hands of the Japanese, now he decided to be up in arms against the returning Dutch forces. He joined Sekolah Perwira a school for officers and met an array of characters there.
There was also Surono (Zumi Zola) who had to leave his older sister, the only family he got left in this world, behind. He joined the school with his best friend during his university years, blueblooded, stuck-up Marius (Darius Sinathrya, who surprisingly pulled a convincing performance, although some say his Persian looks aren't too in line with his character as a Javanese nobleman, or priyayi). They both came late to their first day at school, having spent the night bingeing.
The school didn't only take in highly educated people it also received a farmhand ("We keep chicken, not pigs, Marius") named Tomas (Donny Alamsyah). Being a Christian and a Manadonese ("Dutch dogs!" claimed Marius in disgust), Tomas became the target of bullying by the Javanese proud priyayi boy. Somehow Marius found Tomas a better object to ridicule than the Hindu Balinese, Dayan, a very polite and calm knife-wielder. (I heard the audience whispered, "How polite!" every time Dayan gave a greeting with his palms closed in one another, fingers extended touching.) The frictions of the characters and how they try to settle them down are one of the most interesting points of the film, especially when they found themselves beaten black and blue, surrounded by the Dutch forces, with the hesitant, newly-made Lieutenant Amir as their sole leader! I must give credits to all the actors and actresses here for showing us a top-class performance. Some viewers who watched the film with me even handclapped because they felt so excited! (And somebody shouted 'Amen' when Marius wondered on screen whether they could escape the Dutch it was just one of the moments why watching films on theatres is so interesting!) For Indonesians, the film would feel so cool. To see our heroes smashing the Dutch soldiers to pieces with so few men and arms really drew the outloud comments of 'Cooooool' from the audience. But this film lacked the humanity shown even by revolution-era writers like Nugroho Notosusanto or Idrus the capability of showing that the enemies were human too.
But well, the story's still long MP is the first part of a trilogy and perhaps there will be more details about the Dutch characters later. In MP, they're shown as nothing but evil pigs trying to snatch the land from the Indonesians again. But then again perhaps that's what nationalist films should be Remember Braveheart and The Patriot? And, oh, please, I don't believe anyone's clothes can be that squeaky clean when they've spent a day and a night in the woods. At least the butt of their trousers will show some signs, no?
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