Mass Masturbation by Indonesian moviemakers

indi's picture

What do you see in some of the most recent Indonesian movies? I see a mass masturbation of visual elements, to compensate for a lack of storytelling abilities. Or some may say Indonesian movies have too much icing without much chewable cake in it.

Instead of starting with a KISS method (Keep It Simple, Studid!) I have been overwhelmed, in a negative way, by an overflow of unimportant and sometimes irrelevant play of visual elements.

Let's just compare two of the most well-known movies from both countries, they are Ungu Violet ( and Sepet ( Both carry the same romantic stories with some conflict blended into the plot. But what is a movie without a good story telling talent?

Pardon me for so being too blunt in my expression. But perhaps I should elaborate more on my thoughts on this issue:

-Casts and characters were well selected and developed (nobody famous but very talented)
-Choice of scenes and location was modest and purely honest to reflect the true culture of the particular region of Malaysia.
-Blending sound and sights at the perfect mitch to complement the storyline.

Ungu Violet:
-Casts and characters were not well selected and developed. Dian Sastro could be better but her counterpart was a terrible actor.
-Culturally unexplainable, trying too much to be in the dreamworld and not being too honest about daily life in Indonesia.
-Overpowering sound and sights that do not do much good to the storyline but to show off some cinematographic skills and some trendy music.

Is it the actors' fault that Indonesian movies cannot be humble or true to itself? Or, is it the directors'?

Don't tell me it's about financial resources or equipment because I do believe that low budget films have been successful with good storytelling ability.

Look at the way French ("Amelie" or "Lila" or "a la folie pas du tout"), Italian ("Cinema Paradiso") and Iranian ("Children of Heaven") films depict daily life. Yes, of course exagerration is necessary but the point is that Indonesian movies are lacking in many areas, including the character development. Remember how the movie Gie that lasted for 3 hours has failed to develop Soe Hok Gie's character from beginning to end? A big failure, indeed.

If you are in movie business or interested to discuss about this, I welcome your participation on Skype.


I havent watched both

I havent watched both movies. will do so asap though.. been busy with school life.

havent seen any of them and prb wont!

I have noticed that most Indonesians prefer to watch fantasy worlds on the big screen as well as on the small screen. The only reason that comes to mind as to why they do that is coz I think real life here sucks. And to see that on screen is just another reminder that life sux. They want to escape from it for at least 1hr 45mins.
That, or coz we dont want to see real life, we arent strong enough to accept real life becoz its a reminder of how we have failed.


wicak is right. it is a form of escapism for both the audience and producers/directors.

but for Ungu Violet, there is some traumatic aura in the storyline but not enough meat in it.

escapism: an inclination to retreat from unpleasant realities through diversion or fantasy; "romantic novels were her escape from the stress of daily life"; "his alcohol problem was a form of escapism"

my piece

filmmakers from developing countries are often met with burdens of balancing artistic quality vs. commercial values, something which has not successfully been established, unlike other developed countries fully aware of the existence of filmmaking as part of the countries' potential exhibition commodity.
thus, typically we see the filmmakers from our region are greatly divided into several territories, and for both indonesia and malaysia as being set as the example above, a large number of filmmakers take path to coup greater number of box-office taking by producing films which will please a large section of filmgoing audience, sadly, happens to take the liking of simple-minded films.

i could go on and on as the above is only half-baked statements :P, but i'd like to comment a little on the two films above.
"ungu violet" certainly was made within the frame of aiming to generate good box-office taking, as clearly evident by choosing a popular band, Padi, to do the soundtrack, and putting Dian Sastro as the main lead. in terms of filmmaking, the film fills the expectation as a film in the genre of melodrama. in fact, Sastro pulls off some great performances in several scenes, although we can say that the greatness of the film altogether is gone by the time Rima Melati's character is exorcised. (gee, i must be that mean! :p)
and i couldn't agree more that the only thing that bogs down the film is the main actor who shouldn't have been cast in the first place.
anyway, i guess we could leave the notion of the film being cultural-representative, as it clearly aims for commercial value.

sadly, the noble task is what yasmin ahmad had in mind when she did "sepet", and other films previously and afterwards.
the problem of "sepet" is that it's trying too hard to achieve the intention, which in return works like a boomerang to the film itself, i.e. it fails to be worth watching, especially not with the score which is directly stolen from clint eastwood's "bridges of madison county".
"sepet" actually works like an example that what looks good on a paper does not necessarily translate well to a big screen, and watching a film with uneven pace is, well, something that keeps bothering me throughout the entire film.

there goes my piece, mas indi :)

Made in Singapore by


Well I would say that Sepet is only one of the few movies that malaysians shelled out that is considered down to earth, the rest are also in that fantasy world that what ungu violet it like.

One of the reasons is that maybe that people like seeing this fantasy world and want to live in it rather than be burderned by what they actually have to go thru in such movies as sepet, gubra and recently mohsin. So these movies has less people watching it as compared to other malaysian movies such as Costello, Remp it or *gasp* cicak man...

Maybe for us we love to see these movies like Amelie and sepet cause we dont actually live in that world...

man you malaysie people are

man you malaysie people are so cool lah you know we all want to be like you lah, really.... just dont masturbate too much k?

it's not fair comparison

Comparing Ungu Violet with Sepet is not fair. They're in different league. You must give apple to apple comparison. Why not comparing Sepet with Arisan or Ungu Violet with Malaysian film titled 'Diva'?
I agree that a good movie should 'dig deep into the characters well enough to bring out the essential characteristics of the typical ordinary indonesians', but it seems as if Indrani never watches any good indo movies such as Arisan!, Rindu Kami Padamu (released in 2006), Opera Jawa, Denias, and many more that fits his comment.
If we make comparison on how many Indonesian movies got in Oscar entry list with Malaysian, we know which one is better.

asli Indo

Indo have so many movies...
MalingSia' Is Nothing...!

asli Indo

Indo have so many movies...
MalingSia' Is Nothing...!

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