Review: Siti might flaunt an award-bait starter pack—black-and-white cinematography; pretentious 4:3 aspect ratio; beautifully choreographed long, tracking shots—on the surface, but all of those are no further than a meaningful cover to an intense character study which lies within.
Before the soaring waves of Parangtritis—one of the most famous beaches in Yogyakarta, Indonesia—Siti clamors a rambunctious protest. Not like a highfalutin satire to political issues or modern day slavery, it’s a more traditional and ingrained issue—so ingrained that it is considered a living norm. What Siti attempts to unravel is a tragedy as a result of that issue, wrapped in a modest but essential nod towards role of woman in a patriarch culture.
It’s a story of a woman, the titular character (Sekar Sari)—who breaks the ordinary, working a double job for her family. The sea, which used to give her family a life, has just taken almost everything in a fishing boat accident. Siti’s husband, a poor fisherman, sailed to the catastrophe with a loan boat, leaving him paralyzed and greatly indebted. To cope up with the desperate aftermath, Siti works in some ways that she can do—selling homemade peyek jingking (similar to crab cracker) at the beach during the day and hosting clients in a karaoke parlor at night—showcasing two personalities she has.
Siti‘s modesty is reflected on many aspects of the movie. All dialogues are spoken in local Javanese; they’re all humble, candid, uncensored, unapologetic, but greatly meaningful in spurting out Siti’s burden without any panache. How she’s aware of her limited line of works and how she’s unable to protest her mouth-wide-shut husband are delivered without facade—pointing out some social issues not from a scholar view but from victim’s view.
Siti’s visual treatment is, in the end, not only gimmick. Black-and-white cinematography reflects her post-accident life—sour and saturate. The aspect ratio constricts her movement—limiting any perspective to her surrounding, leaving what matters most on-screen. Meanwhile, long-tracking shot does not give her chance to escape because the camera is following her. It’s beautiful, indeed; but the more the beauty is revealed, the more it feels suffocating and constricting.
All points out to one and only Siti, brilliantly played by Sekar Sari. She transforms perfectly into Siti; therefore I personally thought Siti is her. The complexity of Siti’s character blends into the performer. The more we admire her, the more it feels choking—since we’re admiring one face of many women in a real, depressing society.
Same as Parangtritis, Siti is beautiful, charming, and exotic; but on the other side—the one which we don’t see unless we ponder into it—it bears a radical irony… like a fish dying in the sea. Siti is a definitely love letter to the beauty and the irony of Parangtritis.
Drama Written & Directed by: Eddie Cahyono Starred by: Sekar Sari, Titi Dibyo, Bintang Timur Widodo, Haydar Saliz, Ibnu Widodo Runtime: 88 mins