The film ‘5 cm’ is a very interesting exploration of a fairly interesting concept, perhaps one that is particularly prevalent amongst a segment of society. Bored, in manyrespects, of the kind and good life that they have been living up, they decided to push further their boundaries, to push their friendship to limits so as to better appreciate it. There are several other themes and ideas tied to this, but it serves as an interesting basic premise to explore further.
It tells the story of five friends, whose friendship has lasted the better part of a decade. What’s interesting is that they each has a different characteristic, one unique enough to separate them from another. Zafran (Herjunot Ali) is a bit of a poet, one who has a quotable line prepared and ready to go for almost any occasion. That, I suppose, is what being an idealist does to you, and he is quite idealistic to a certain extent. He does have a wish to become famous, almost above anything else.
It’s not to dissimilar from Riani (Raline Shah), who is the dream girl of some in the film (and maybe outside of it too, if my cinematographer ever gets to watch this). Her hotness can be paralleled with Arial (Denny Sumargo), whose machoness knows almost no boundaries…except for when it comes to picking up women. That is something that Ian (Igor Saykoji), the (if I may be permitted to use a politically incorrect description in this day and age) fat one of the group, and therefore the butt of many of the jokes in the film.
They are all held together in many respects by Genta (Fedi Nuril), who leads the group in terms of his willingness to accede to the wishes of others. It’s not quite bending over backwards, but it is telling that he is the one who initiated this idea to begin with, and organised their trip.
What trip? Well, as a way of pushing their friendship further, one fine night (and I do mean one very fine night in a very fine place), they decided that their relatively bourgeois existence is probably no good for the long-term health of their friendship, and so decided, at least for the next three months, to go their separate ways without once contacting each other. By the end of that time period, Genta would inform them of one activity they would all have to take part in, an activity that would bring them all together and make them closer to one another.
That activity? Climbing the highest peak of Java, Mahameru on Gunung Semeru, on the 17th of August.
This is where the film transitions a little to become something of a road movie. They travel from the bustling city and make their way into the country side via the time-tested method of taking a train. Cue the leaning-out-of-the-train-door-and-looking-at-the-scenery montage sequence, complete with the appropriate score soaring softly in the background. If you are Indonesian, then perhaps this would resonate further with you. For my part, I enjoyed the scenery, but the difference between Indonesia and Malaysia, at least through this part portrayed on screen, is not as stark as some may think it to be.
Nevertheless, Indonesian or not, you will certainly come to appreciate Dinda (Pevita Pearce), Arial’s sister who serves as something of the fantasy of Zafran. We see earlier in the film his attempts at chatting her up, and it was done in a humourous manner. The little moments like this helps to further embellish the characters with unique quirks that further differentiate them from one another. Nevertheless, her inclusion on the trip is a little off-putting for me, given that she’s not a part of the original ‘gang’ so to speak, but it is difficult to deny the eye candy elements of this film, of which she is one.
The other characters in the film, however, are more refined in terms of their development. Ian, for example, may well serve as the comedic outlet for much of the film, but this challenge also helped to push him further in achieving his dreams. We see, then, a strong development from the start, when he is lighting up instant noodles in the kitchen in the middle of the night (which, I suppose, highlights his inability to truly be disciplined on anything) to a more complete and more socially ‘acceptable’ character near the film’s end. His is a development I wish to highlight, for the others, with the exception of minor moments of changes, did not truly change as much as he did.
The story, then, works well on a number of levels, and the logic is fairly strongly served by the scenery. I have no doubt of the nationalistic intentions of the film in promoting the sights and sounds of Java and Indonesia, though I have to admit that at times it grates with the central narrative of the film. I am not sure whether propagandistic notions can truly exist with more micro ones, but this disconnect aside (which will penalise, to a certain extent, your non-Indonesianness), it is not a problem.
What is a problem, though, is the actual narrative itself. I understand that this is based on a book based on real life experiences, and I can well appreciate the willingness these characters based on real people have to renew and refresh their long-term friendships. Perhaps, to a certain extent, it is something I myself should consider for my own friendships.
However, I do struggle to accept the logic that theirs is a friendship that can be renewed only by climbing a freaking mountain. It turns out, though, that there is something of a tradition by many people in doing so on the 17th of August (the national day of Indonesia), and it is something sacred for some. Again, the lack of such knowledge hampers a deeper appreciation of the film as it is played out on screen, but the point is that the main characters are at fault for dragging themselves into such a dangerous situation. Mountains are not simple things to be ascended, and the climbing of them can be incredibly dangerous for those who are not explicitly and implicitly prepared for such an endeavour.
Here, what we have is the willingness of characters who commendably undergo such hardship, but it is a disproportionate one that is not safe under any circumstances. Genta only tells them that they are to climb the mountain once they are actually at the mountain. I am not sure whether that is a reflection of the real life portrayed in the book, but from my perspective, that is pretty dumb. If someone had told me to climb a mountain immediately, I doubt I would be friends with that person for much longer. I would be happy to, but to do so without any explicit preparation whatsoever is incredibly dangerous, and in a film that is rooted not in fanciful fantasies, a story that is realised as such in the real world as we know it seems fairly illogical to me.
It is something I understand as a major minor flaw (as in, it is an important thing, but in relation to the rest of the film, it pales in comparison), but it may not appear to be so to others. The director, Rizal Mantovani, is successful in crafting and enhancing the different characters, imbuing them with enough heart and emotion that, for the most part, you care for them. There is a strong and noble theme, with a very hard physical journey being very effective in developing the characters along the way.
Ultimately, I suppose, then, the difference that lies in whether you enjoy this film or otherwise, whether it truly strikes the strings of your heart or whether you simply deem it an enjoyable flick at the cinema, depends largely on how hot the Java heat is emanating from the depths of your soul.
Basically…how Indonesian you are, really.
Fikri thinks his attention span is so good that he cannot be distr…wait, is that Pevita?
Featured image credit: East Java Vacation Packages