Ada Apa dengan Cinta?
What's Up with Love?
Director: Rudy Soejarwo
A couple of years ago I came across a screener of this youthful romance and
found it more than a little charming and have hoped ever since to find it
in digital form. Thus it was a pleasant surprise when I saw it had come out
on VCD with English subtitles. Indonesian cinema is a black hole to most
people outside of the country for a couple of reasons – there isn’t that
much of it, what there is tends to be low budget dramas, romances and comedies
and it’s content is severely censored in terms of sexual matter and violence
– all things that generally lessen interest in the West, which still tends
to approach Asian cinema for its exotic, violent, erotic and fantastic elements.
But the prime reason that this cinema is so difficult to access is an even
more basic one – similar to its next door neighbor Malaysia – the DVD format
is not being utilized to any extent with nearly all their films being released
only on VCD with English sub-titles being a rarity. This is primarily for
financial reasons as most local consumers can’t afford DVDs and the VCD format
fits them fine. Still it’s a shame as other countries in Asia have shown
that giving their films international exposure has been a great boost for
the local film industry and the easiest way to do this outside of film festivals
is through the sub-titled DVD where people from all over the world can begin
to appreciate and promote various films over the Internet.
This film is a perfect example of one that could capture a fan base outside
of Indonesia with its utterly sweet, literate and touching story of young
love. In many ways the film could take place anywhere with teenagers that
have many of the same interests as those all over the world – hanging out
in malls, going to concerts, practicing dance routines, playing basketball,
first love, enduring friends and that getting ready for the first date ritual.
Woven subtly within are issues of class, politics and abuse, but it is primarily
concerned with love and friendship – the two driving factors of so much angst
during our high school days. The film was a huge box office hit – not only
in Indonesia but in Malaysia as well – and it generated a tremendous amount
of controversy for one shocking scene – shocking I tell you - a kiss between
the two main characters. Yes, a kiss. One kiss if I recollect. Apparently,
this was the first film in decades in which an onscreen kiss was allowed
and it brought in hordes of anxious teenagers to see it. I say recollect
because much to my dismay it was censored out of the VCD! I guess someone
thought it was necessary to filter out such evil going-ons which young people
might see in the privacy of their homes and go on an insane kissing rampage.
So if you should buy the VCD just imagine a lingering innocent kiss that
occurs near the end of the film at the airport.
Taking place I think in present day Jakarta, it features five extremely close
female friends going through the pain of high school. Their motto is “The
problem of one is the problem of all and the enemy of one is the enemy of
all”. When Cinta (which means “love” and who is played beguilingly by Dian
Sastrowardoyo) loses in the school poetry competition to an unknown boy named
Rangga (Nico Saputra), she is extremely disappointed until she reads his
poem and is overwhelmed by it. She seeks him out for an interview for the
school paper, but is immediately rebuffed by his aloof and surly attitude.
She tells her compadres that he is to be put in the “must avoid” category
in their collective journal, but of course she can’t as she finds herself
drawn to this loner who seems so disinterested in the school life around
him. And eventually, he to her. As one side character says “It’s like a 70’s
romance. Love begins with books and goes to Saturday night”. But her romance
begins to interfere with her clique chemistry and after near tragedy strikes,
she feels she has to decide between love and friendship. Sweet and charming
from the beginning to the end (with a nice soundtrack thrown in), this may
feel all too familiar in many ways – even including a mad dash to the airport
- but for those who can take one more innocent tale of first love this is
a total winner.