Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts

Reviews - Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts

Reviewed By Ian Payne

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts
Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts
Last Sunday's Keswick Film Club showing was Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts. If you ask Google for images of Indonesia the search brings up the predictable photographs; jungles, temples, verdant terraces and long sandy beaches.

The landscape of Indonesia's Sumba province in Marlina the Murderer… therefore, came as a bit of a shock. Endless, bleak stretches of undulating grassland with few trees and under huge skies made it easy to see why director Mouly Surya based the look and feel of her film on Sergio Leone's classic spaghetti westerns. The film was based on a true story, told to Mouly Surya by a fellow Indonesian director.

Marlina is alone and isolated on her farm - a bereaved mother and recent widow. Markus and his gang arrive and expect hospitality before they steal all her livestock and take turns to rape her. Marlina has other ideas and what follows is a classic revenge drama shaped by that unique landscape and the deep-rooted traditions of the Sumba people.

Whilst the robber gang, hardened criminals with parangs and motorcycles rather than six-shooters and horses, could have come out of any of Leone's movies, Marlina is a heroine with few words. Not because of an innate strength like the Clint Eastwood character but because she is scared of what she has done and in the knowledge that she cannot expect any sympathy from the (maledominated) judicial system or the surviving gang members.

Her journey to the police station to report the crime is fraught. Fellow passengers on the rural 'bus' object to her carrying the severed head of her attacker (never a problem I've found on the X5 service), a bride's mother gets on with two horses which were missing from her daughter's dowry, a heavily-pregnant mother is beaten by her husband for carrying the baby beyond the nine month term – bizarre images that reinforce just how different the Sumba way of life must be.

This was a film to divide the audience. For some, the Sumba culture and the imagery was just so alien as to make the movie inaccessible. For others, the suspension of disbelief was perhaps easier and they were more able to enjoy this strange insight into life in rural Indonesia.

And the outcome? As with any western, justice – of a sort - was done!

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

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