Floating on Water – Perahu Kertas

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Fikri Jermadi saw this a while back, but remembers it fairly clearly. Not that he wants to

‘Perahu Kertas’ tells the story of Kugy (Maudy Ayunda) and Keenan (Adipati Dolken), who study together at university. In many respects, this story plays out as a budding love that grows between two friends who are not that keen on admitting it to one another. In fact, both are quite strong-headed characters: Kugy has a tomboy streak, with more than a hint of hipster in her, claiming herself to be an agent of Neptune (Roman god of the sea). Keenan, on the other hand, is a lot more withdrawn, retaining an air of mystery around him, the kind that makes all the girls slightly more Keen(an) on getting to know him better.

Not that that is his main concern. A lot of this is to do with his family, primarily his father, forcing him to study economics. This, of course, is something a lot of people can relate to, especially when what truly floats his perahu (see what I did there?) is the arts. It’s something he does on the side, but wishes to take on board on a more full-time basis. His is a soul that seeks release through these, as well as writing what he thinks before folding them into a small boat, and releasing them into a stream.

"Hey, the book is better than the movie!"
“Hey, the book is better than the movie!”

There are a couple of factors that has to be born in mind before we go any further. This film is directed by Hanung Bramantyo, arguably the most active mainstream film director in Indonesia (it feels like he releases a film every year). This brings with it a certain cachet, for if you have seen some of his films before this, you’ll have a decent idea of what to expect. From ‘Soekarno’ to ‘?’, there’s always a sense of ‘nearly there but not quite yet’. There’s a lack of completion, an overall vision that’s glued together.

Another factor that will help to explain this better is the fact that the film is an adaptation of a book written by Dee. It’s a fairly popular book, one that led to high expectations for those who have read the book in watching this film. I myself had a certain expectation, as noted above, but it turns out that reading the book is more complete. That may seem obvious, but I do not wish to plug this under the category of ‘the book is always better than the film’.

I’ll give you an example. In one scene, Keenan was already visibly frustrated by the fact that he was forced to study something he had no interest in whatsoever. His father, losing his temper, challenged him to leave, and he does exactly that. In the driveway, with his backpack slung over his shoulder, his little brother suddenly comes out. In a moment of pure emotion, he hugged Keenan, and was visibly upset to see him leave.

Indonesians: very horny.
Indonesians: very horny.

I can understand this, except that in the film there was no indication whatsoever of him having such a relationship with his younger brother. If anything, it was almost the complete opposite, with Keenan constantly withdrawing further and further into himself. I was then informed that in the book, Keenan was quite close to his younger brother, which explains such a reaction, but I had seen little in the film to justify such an approach. As such, it is a reflection of the director’s decisions to pick and choose what to show from the book.

Perhaps another slight issue that must be considered is how the book itself was split up into two; there’s another film, ‘Perahu Kertas 2’, that picks up where this film ends. I think it’s a unique approach for a book and a story that’s not quite the epic that may require two films to tell the story. I am in favour of new approaches, but only if they make sense. In this case, not watching the second film immediately after the first made me feel rather underwhelmed, rather than excited for the next chapter. Then again, if I had to deal with another ninety minutes of the same, I might just about be willing to shoot myself.

For the story arc was fairly repetitive and obvious. If you’re a fan of dramatic twists and turns in such stories (“What? Did his mother have something with that guy?!”), then you might find this an enjoyable enough ride. That’s not to say that the movie is entirely bad. Far from it, for I did enjoy it in moderation. The music selection was appropriate, lending this film a sense of young and contemporary feel many films try to capture. I also felt that the acting was good; Kugy can be adorable, and her sadness when things didn’t quite go to plan was affecting.

The Mayo diet is popular amongst youths these days.
The Mayo diet is popular amongst youths these days.

The same could be said for Keenan. He may wish to maintain a certain image as a mask over his problems, and fails to hold everything together. Even Reza Rahardian’s character, Remi, was charming without being creepy; you begin by rooting for Kugy and Keenan to be together, but you probably wouldn’t mind so much if Remi is in the picture. It’s not the easiest of acting to do, I believe, so kudos to the team for that.

All in all, for me I wish a better clarity and vision should have been settled on, one that ensures all the loose ends were properly introduced and tied up at the right time. Instead, a lot of people meet, fall in love, break up, meet other people, fall in love, and…

…will they break up, in order to get back with the original? Well, you’ll just have to watch the next film, if you really want to know.

Or read the book. That might be better.

Fikri wants nothing more than a root beer float right now.

Feature image credit: For Wallpaper

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