Who does not know about Soekarno? He is the very first president of Indonesia. He is the one who proclaimed Indonesia’s independence. He is Indonesia’s greatest hero. He is simply great. At least, that is how I remembered Soekarno, based on the history lessons I received since elementary school.
However, apparently, that is not how Hanung Bramantyo remembered him as reflected in his latest movie, Soekarno, which narrates various stages about the life of the first president.
As a boy, Koesno Sosrodiharjo frequently falls sick more than others. Therefore, his parents decide to change his name into Soekarno, inspired by Adipati Karna, a noble character in Mahabarata narratives.
Now bearing the name of Soekarno, the boy is then sent to live with Tjokroaminoto, one of the founders of Sarekat Islam (an Islamic tradeorganization which holds an important role in Indonesian history). Through Tjokroaminoto, young Soekarno learns nationalism. However, according to the movie, Soekarno’s sense of nationalism is fully awakened after a Dutch opposed his daughter’s relationship with Soekarno.
With the flaming spirit of nationalism, Soekarno then hones his oratory skill to an astounding level. In fact, Soekarno (played by Ario Bayu, despite oppositions from Soekarno's real life children) is known as the best orator Indonesia ever has. No one in Indonesia is yet to be in his league. His political movement then starts by joining the Indonesian National (PNI) Party through which he advocates and spreads his idea of independence. He then became a famous figure.
Fearing Soekarno’s growing influence, the Dutch Collonial government arrests him and hands him imprisonment sentence in 1930, separating him from his second wife Inggit Garnasih. Soekarno and Inggit, accompanied by their adopted children, were then exiled by the Dutch Colonial government to Endebefore being transferred to Bengkulu.
Now entering his 30s, Soekarno becomes a teacher in an Islamic school in his exile in Bengkulu, incorporating his ideal of independence to his students. Among his students is Fatmawati, with whom he falls in love. Soekarno’s almost 20-year old relationship with Inggit is challenged as he grows fonder of the young girl.
Soekarno is then torn between his nation’s political conflict as Japanese invasion draws closer and his personal conflict, making Fatmawati as his second wife after Inggit. The dual conflicts set the mood for the last half of the movie which runs for a total of 137 minutes.
Despite its slow pace, the movie and Hanung as the director still deserve acknowledgement. Unlike Habibie & Ainun, Hanung’s movie on the romantic life of Indonesia’s third president, Soekarno is surprisingly fairly okay to watch. I like the way Soekarno brings audience into the old Indonesia. The setting, costumes, make-up and properties are appropriately constructed. There are no obstructions like in Habibie & Ainun (I still remember how I detest various commercial products inserted in inappropriate manners in the move) that cause rifts in the setting of time.
Then, the movie also deserves recognition because it offers us about the unseen face of Soekarno. It is true that there have been books, articles and other resources which discussed about the human nature side of Soekarno (read: he is a heterosexual man who loves so many women). But only limited and specific number of people wanted to access them. The movie, on the other hand, appeals to more people. Movie theorists have also frequently said that movie is the best tool to promote an ideology. Therefore, this movie, in my opinion, participates in introducing Soekarno's unseen sides to broader generations.
The unseen human side of Indonesia’s first president is constructed through various scenes that showcase Soekarno as a lady-killer. This human side of Soekarno is never narrated in Indonesia’s history subjects. Frankly, until I was at senior high school, i still naively considered Fatmawati as the only wife of Soekarno and considered that he was always faithful and madly in love with her. Try to hit his Wikipedia entry! It states that after marrying Fatmawati, Soekarno married six more women.
Hanung, through this movie, has demystified Soekarno. The all-good image of Indonesia's founding father is brought down to earth. He is just a mere man, like the rest of us, the movie suggests. However, Soekarno is also not like the rest of us. He is Indonesia’s finding father. The movie beautifully showcases how he always holds his idealism although many people around him sound different voices.
Do my sense of nationalism increase after watching this movie? Well, I do not know for sure. But one thing I am certain is I get to know better one of the founding fathers of this country.