An eye-opener, a movement, a reminder.
By Zafira Fiona Islami
April is a highly anticipated month for movie enthusiasts since a number of blockbusters will be released this month. Even so, April is also the month for local Indonesian movies, as many amazing long-awaited movies are set to release. One of them is 27 Steps of May. This movie was released on the big screen on April 27th, 2019, in the middle of the Avengers: Endgame euphoria. That, however, doesn’t stop this movie from shining through. 27 Steps of May had actually been aired at three prestigious film festivals, Bengaluru International Film Festival (Biffes), Mar Sharm El Sheikh Asian Film Festival (SAFF) and Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF). This movie also premiered at the Plaza Indonesia Film Festival on April 15th, 2019.
Directed by Ravi Bharwani, this movie tells us about a woman’s desire to make peace with her dark past through an encounter with a stranger. May, played by Raihaanun, was gang-raped at the age of 14. Her father, Lukman Sardi, is very devastated and feels responsible for what happened to her daughter. Greatly traumatized by the incident, May shuts everyone out and locks herself up in her safe place, her bedroom. For almost 8 years, May sticks to the same routine. Ironing her clothes, dressing up her dolls with her father who willingly helps. Until one day, a magician, played by Ario Bayu, moves in next door and creates a small crack in May’s wall. May’s curiosity brings her closer to the colors the magician offers and later she becomes brave enough to search and face her once lost feelings, sensations, and memories.
Opening up the movie, the scene takes place in a traveling funfair; reminding me of Jordan Peele’s movie, Us, which also opened up in a traveling funfair. In terms of storytelling, it is quite rare to find movies that open up explicitly about violence against women, specifically sexual assault. In Indonesia, this particular subject is considered taboo. This movie was inspired by the crisis that happened back in 1998. There were a lot of sexual assault cases back then. However, in the movie, there is no clear explanation about the time setting.
What to expect from the movie is the cinematography which is beyond amazing; how every scene was pleasantly framed, how the ambiance was perfectly portrayed. The scenes where May is the centerpiece is dark toned to almost colorless to capture the dark traumatic past May went through. It was also portrayed by May’s room which was furnished minimally and set very accordingly, acting as a safe zone to May’s organized life routine. In contrary, the scenes with the magician are full of colors, to match the elements of his magic tricks. This was also supported by the popping colors of properties on the frame.
As the face of this movie, Raihaanun is definitely my favorite part of the movie. Due to her trauma, May rarely talks. Most of her scenes were void of dialogue, but her gestures say a lot; her sharp eye glances, her emotion, all without even a single word coming from her mouth. Another to highlight is Lukman Sardi’s acting which is also undoubtedly very good. I love the way he delivers his contrasting emotions as a father. We could see the grudge he held for the perpetrator who hurt his daughter. But when he’s around May, his purest heart shows. Ario Bayu also managed to deliver the magician character. I saw his character as someone who came to help May to get out of her safe zone using his magic tricks as a tool to introduce May to new colors of life and to convince her to step further, to start anew, and move on from the past. One other character that I haven’t mention is the courier, played by Verdi Solaiman. He is actually my second favorite character after May. His presence in this movie also plays a big role. Not only is he the doll courier, but he is also May’s father’s friend. He can be very funny and very serious. His wise words and jokes are all delivered well by Verdi Solaiman. In my opinion, he’s the icebreaker in this movie.
As for an overall review of the movie, I do think that 27 Steps of May is worth to watch. Though, there are things that still bugs me: unanswered questions and several things that don’t add up. As for example, how come May’s father doesn’t realize that there’s someone living next to them and create a hole in their wall? Was it May’s imagination all this time? But still, hats off to the director, producers, cast, and all the crew for giving the audience a chance to experience the thrill and pain and to finally see the life and grief of rape-victims. Aside from supporting Indonesian filmmakers, this movie also holds a very valuable lesson about life in general. Bringing up violence against women to the big screen is very enlightening; an eye-opener that sexual assaults can happen to anyone, anywhere, a movement to all victims to start speaking up and standing up.