Hujan Bulan Juni (2017) – Review: A less-narrative visual poetry

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Review: Hujan Bulan Juni (literally ‘June’s Rain), an adaptation of Sapardi Djoko Damono’s poetic novel, presents a complicated yet colorful romance thread between two lecturers. There are lots more than modest love story and exchanging of poems in the plot; however, this adaptation decides to present it more like a visual poem than a narrative apparatus.

It’s a grown-up love story about hesitation and love in the intersection of past and future. Pingkan (Veloxe Vexia), a Japanese Literature lecturer, will go to Japan for further studies; yet, before leaving, Sarwono (Adipati Dolken), an Anthropology lecturer and her lover, asks her to accompany him for the university affairs in Manado, Pingkan’s hometown. Unbeknownst to them, fear of Pingkan’s intersecting past and future engulfs Sarwono. Through poems, Sarwono attempts to warn his lover; and through poems, Pingkan attempts to convince her lover.

Call it a complex love-triangle with Pingkan as the center and Sarwono as one side. The other two sides are people from Pingkan’s past and future—Ben (Baim Wong), Pingkan’s step-cousin who has close connection with her and her big family; and Katsuo (Kotaro Kakimoto), a Japanese man who will be Pingkan’s mentor in Japan. Even, there’s another random man, Mr. Tumbelaka (Surya Saputra), sliding into the complicated romance as endorsed by local tradition. As if it’s not complicated enough, Hujan Bulan Juni also cooks up other fundamental conflicts, from zonal, cultural to religious difference between Sarwono and Pingkan to spice up the hesitation, which has always been the main conflict.

In bridging the ‘poetic nature’ of the novel, director Reni Nurcahyo Hestu Saputra crafts an aesthetically striking film to match majestic poems, which are often recited during the film. Faozan Rizal’s cinematography slickly captures the beauty to compensate Sapardi Djoko Damono’s morphological panache—from the magnificent Manado-Gorontalo landscape, the neon-bathing Manado house, to the cherry blossom laden scenery of Japan. The beautiful pastiche is often too dominant, overshadowing Adipati and Velove, who, despite bonding well, are often drowned in poem recital.

Hujan Bulan Juni is indeed beautiful in lots of aspect; it can even establish itself as a visual poem. Yet, even the beauty cannot transcend the story as a presentable narrative which delivers its true meaning. It is way more poetic than it is narrative; sadly, it’s not an arthouse attempt.

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