(ca) wrote: A potent blend of full-throttled, adrenaline rush of action with Indonesian martial arts, Merantau tells the tale of Yuda, who follows the family tradition of transitioning from adolescence to manhood through experience & success, only to find himself being chased in the underworld of human trafficking after he saved a girl from her abusive boss. Though pacing is slow in the first half, it revitalises itself superbly in the second half, setting a ferocious pace & some genre-defining action sequences that continues till the very end. Featuring a decent story & performances yet stylishly directed, effectively paced & wonderfully choreographed, Merantau may not have much for all viewers but it is surely one hell of an entertainer that will satisfy most action film fans in more ways than one.
(au) wrote: [COLOR=White][B]THE PLOT:[/B] [I]A misguided bus driver leads a group of unfortunate buffoons into the middle of the African desert. They run out of gas in a stranded village overlooked by a sole elderly man, and containing nothing but rusted cans of carrots. Gradually, as their desperation mounts, to distract themselves from the impending doom they decide to stage Shakespeare's King Lear. [/I] Stories of survival in the wilderness have always intrigued audiences, because they present an opportunity to witness the dark side of people, when all humanity gets stripped raw by isolation and monotony. Kristian Levring's The King is Alive may have been the inspiration for ABC's Lost, although Lost is definitely more of a broad crowd-pleaser, while King takes the dogmatic, somewhat pretentious, pseudo-intellectual route, all handheld camera, big themes, lots of desert exposition and sweat. As with the majority of Dogme films, some of the film works, and some of it doesn't. We'll start with what works. The film handles the societal crumbling theme well - it's gradual; emotions are becoming more raw and painful and violent as the film progresses, but then they reach a certain point, and are suddenly sort of mute and blank, as if sun-stroked, with only occasional outbursts of vigor. (Take the scene where Jennifer Jason Leigh's character agrees to sleep with a man so he'd join their play; then, sick and dying, she regurgitates the experience in the worst terms possible, deliberately making it hard for him.) When faced with each other and sheer nothingness, people become animals, following their primal instincts. King does a good job demonstrating that unnerving human capacity to turn on each other when having nothing but each other (and some canned carrots). Everyone tries to focus on actually going through with the staging of the play. Under the scathing sun, barely moving, bristling with sweat and covered in sand, they utter their lines with sort of a 'clenched-teeth' determination, in which their willingness to live and also be grounded in reality is personified. Technically/visually, Kristian Levring's film is almost flawless (the inter-cut zooms of flashes are somewhat off-putting at times), with the paranoia and helplessness of being trapped in the desert supplemented well by the Dogme approach. It adds realism (and in a way, surrealism) to the situation, and emphasizes certain details - at times you'll feel like the sand is under your collar, and the scorching sun leaps off the screen. The metaphorical (?) old man, Kanana - the narrator/ silent observer of the stranded group's mounting craze - at times almost serves as a source of relief, a sign of hope that survival is actually a notion; at other times, his presence is eerie, a looming death-like figure that sadistically watches the Lord of the Flies-ish showdown. He's as consistent as the desert, he becomes virtually a part of it, emotionlessly revealing to us the story while sitting in his chair. The film does have its flaws. The psycho-babble of King gets tiring - yes, we see what they're going through, but we don't know, or like, the characters enough to care. "Together," comments Kanana, "these people say words, but they don't say them to each other." That also includes us, the audience, and though that may have been the point, the film's entertainment value remains debatable. Unlike, say, the similar Flight of the Phoenix (the original, not the Dennis Quaid / John Moore remake), or Hitchcock's classic Lifeboat, King doesn't give us any compelling character (or plot) developments. Another thing not quite made clear throughout the film - why King Lear? Apart from some parallels in plots (between Shakespeare's play and the group), their choice was not entirely justified. Why would anyone decide to stage such a morbid play in the middle of the scorching desert? Something a bit more lively would do, like The Tempest, or even better, how about A Midsummer Night's Dream? Now that would have made a helluva Dogme film. [B]BOTTOM LINE[/B] Survival stories aficionados and Dogme fans will lap this up, but the film's merciless bleakness ultimately becomes a tad repetitive. [/COLOR]