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| Friday, 19 October 2018 |
Indonesia Version

Marlina The Murderer in Four Acts: Deconstructing Identity
A footage taken from a scene in the `Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts` film.
Wednesday, 06 December, 2017 | 07:58 WIB
Marlina The Murderer in Four Acts: Deconstructing Identity

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The film's title, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, was initially written in English before being given the Indonesian title, Marlina Si Pembunuh dalam Empat Babak-a direct translation from the English. But although Marlina is an Indonesian-language film, even an Indonesian teacher may have trouble understanding its dialogue, as most of it is spoken in the Sumba dialect. Fluent speakers of Indonesian unfamiliar with the dialect, however, may benefit from the film’s English subtitles. 

The discussion on language opens up a wide scope of dimensions, including esthetics, politics and economics, all adding to the variables in which we can discuss a film. This question comes up: how does one determine a film’s identity based on its language? Of course the question would be rendered a non-issue if the singularity of identity is seen as inessential. 

The first ‘act’ begins with a robbery that may seem peacefully enacted but is, in fact, rife with tension and enmity in the film’s most impressive scene, when Marlina (Marsha Timothy) in her role as the oppressed expresses quiet turmoil before she finally poisons her soup and beheads the oppressor. A juridical matter: it is of course easier to defend a rape victim who beheads her rapist than someone who has feigned consent to ensure the success of premeditated murder. 

But this predicament does not necessarily create discomfort, as the viewer may already identify with Marlina. The livestock thieves (Yayu Unru and others) and Markus (Egi Fedly), the rapist, could have been portrayed as vile and imperious. Rather, we are then brought to an ethical dimension: Do they deserve to be murdered? The plot seems to want viewers to agree. Although all men in the film are nefarious-save for the bus driver in the second act-in the third act, Marlina is not heard admitting to poisoning the chicken soup that has killed four people. When asked if Markus’ friends assisted the rape, she answers in the positive-a lie, because by then they were already dead. 

This brings the audience into a political dimension. The film is not simply about a victim resisting the oppressor, but about a female victim living in a man’s world where daily oppression is merely a reality. The myth, for example, that breech babies are the products of adultery, in the case of Novi, played phenomenally by Dea Panendra: When her husband beats her under this false assumption, the viewer completely sides with the woman. And when Novi beheads Marlina’s rapist in the last act, well, the second beheading in the same house will not be met with objection. Plus, the scene after the two beheadings is supreme: the two women sobbing together, followed by the birth of a baby. 

But the film, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, makes for brilliant entertainment not only because of its plot. Its setting, Sumba’s cultural and natural landscape, the vast open space, the way people converse and dress, the singing, the horses-all contribute to making a spectacular picture. In fact, its static interior scenes, with low-lighting and an evident nod to the golden ratio, brings artistic comfort and stability to the screen.


Read the full article in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine



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