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Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, an Important Movie for Men and Women

A day of work and sleep deprivation exhausted me. Yet, last night I still decided to go see Marlina Sang Pembunuh Empat Babak (Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts) at a movie theater nearby my office. As the film started to roll, I was half awake. “I would fall asleep,” I told myself.

I was wrong. In just several minutes, the film cast its spell, making my eyes and my mind wide open. I was hungry to know what would come next.

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts tells the story of Marlina (Marsha Timothy), a widow living by herself in the savannah of East Sumba, Indonesia, with the mummified corpse of her husband, who died a year after she lost her son in a miscarriage.

Local belief hold that people must arrange a traditional ritual, which cost millions of rupiah, to bury the death. If one has not gathered enough money, then the deceased must be kept at his or her house.

To bury her husband, Marlina had been working hard to raise enough fortune. However, one day, a debt collector named Markus (Egi Fedly) came to her house. He told her that he and six other people would rob her in just a few hour. He said they would take turn raping her and that she would enjoy that. 

The robbers arrived and stole her cattle. As she lived alone, with no nearby neighbors, she could not look for help. Marlina tried to keep her cool to find ways to escape from this predicament. She managed to poison four robbers. Two robbers brought the cattle away from Marlina's house. Yet, fortune eluded her. When she tried to poison Markus, he raped her instead. However, when seeing an opening during the forced intercourse, she beheaded him with his own machete. With Markus' head in hand, Marlina embarked on a journey to find justice for her. 

Ninety minutes flew by solemnly, fiery, and, emotionally. The movie ended. Credits rolled.

I thoroughly enjoyed following Marlina’s journey for justice. Award winning director Mouly Surya elegantly combined the mesmerizing views of Sumba savannah and Marlina’s plight. Not a second did I want to miss the beautiful scenery of Sumba or disconnect from Marlina’s feeling. While the long shots in many scenes captured the breathtaking views of Sumba, the close up and medium shots empathize us with Marlina’s fight. As a man, I felt and shared her pain.  

The story, which was written by a group of writers including award winning filmmaker Garin Nugroho, was also very strong. One can tell that the people behind the film did a thorough research. The movie’s representation of local culture and belief correspond with information I got from a friend who has visited Sumba and done a project with locals.

The film does not judge local cultures and belief. Rather, it intrigues its viewers to know and study more about them. “Is it true that traditional burial is that expensive? What happen if one does not have money? What about the role of government on sites, or religion? What is it with a breech baby? What about that, what about this, what if…?” Coming out of the movie theater, my head craved for more information about Sumbanese and the local cultures. As an Indonesian, I am ashamed on how unfamiliar I am with the diverse culture of my nation.

In addition, the movie tackles a very important issue of raping stereotypes on women. When it comes to raping, women in whatever culture and part of the world are mostly blamed. Women are always wronged whether for wearing revealing clothing, or not being defensive, or just for being women.

The film presents these stereotypes and issues very well, making its female and MEN viewers reflect on that. As a men, I was overwhelmed by Marlina’s emotion and plight. The raping scenes somehow linked me with her stress, sorrow and anger. I also felt relieved and satisfied when she beheaded Markus and poisoned the robbers. “What would I do if I am a woman who is raped?” It is not easy being a woman, this feminist film tells its audience. If you still think women are at fault in rape cases after watching the movie, then you need to go see a doctor.

Marsha Timothy as Marlina 
Each of the movie’s act also symbolizes different stages in Marina’s journey. Each act delivers important message. No act is more important than another. In each act, Marlina always finds something to empower her and to reflect on so that she can make a peace with herself. With each act, viewers also grow their sympathy and empathy towards Marlina. Those who started watching the film careless about her fight came out a staunch supporter in the end.  

Finally, I want to conclude that Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, which received rave reviews at Cannes Film Festival 2017, is a movie that both women and, importantly, MEN should watch.

It does not matter if you want to watch it just because you want to see Sumba’s majestic view. It matters not because by the end of the movie you will be transformed. You - and by you I mean Indonesians - will care more about culture and society which are foreign to you, yet they are closer than you can imagine. You will believe that women issues are real and not a laughing matter. You will respect women more because yes, they earn every right to be respected.

Rating: 5/5


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