The story of Perburuan spawns during the moment of captivity. Pramoedya Ananta Toer silently and secretly wrote the manuscript in his dark, damp cell during post-independence aggression by Dutch. The narrative, however, sets during the late period of Japanese occupation, following the life of fugitive hiding in the plain sight as a beggar. Along with Bumi Manusia, Perburuan marks the screen adaptations of Toer’s novels by Falcon Pictures released in 2019.
It’s, after all, a story of betrayal, separation, lonesome and uncertainty. Told in more chronological order (with some occasional flashbacks) than the source material, Perburuan follows a former shodanco of PETA, Japanese-founded Indonesian army, on his run after a failed coup. As Hardo (Adipati Dolken, Posesif, Teman Tapi Menikah) becomes a fugitive, he’s got to live underground, separated from his closest people—including his parents and his fiancee (Ayushita, Kartini)—until Japan’s gone. Living under uncertainty and the vile memory of Japan’s cruelty, Hardo starts to succumb to madness.
The involvement of Richard Oh, in collaboration with Falcon Pictures, draws a lot of questions. The first and most important one would be: how would the director compromise? Richard Oh, as a director, has quite a reputation as a philosophical storyteller. His movies (Melancholy is a Movement, Terpana) are making distant from genre-movies with contemplative dialogues and avant-garde looks. Theoretically, Perburuan is a safe material to cater to his filmmaking traits; but, sadly, this adaptation is a total mess.
Oh takes an unpopular theatrical approach—treating the whole movie like a stage-play. However, the narrative simply lacks coherence. The betrayal lacks motivation; the lonesome fugitive life lacks exposition; the character’s interaction lacks contextual proposition; the production details lack determination. Perburuan tends to alienate casual viewers who barely read the book and relies on information that simply is invisible from the visual cues. The betrayal is almost unnoticed because there simply isn’t any notice on that. Hardo’s decision to hide in plain sight is also questionable, given dialogues with his own father and his soon-to-be father in law. Adipati Dolken has one meditative moment which he perfectly enacts; but, that’s possibly the only decent moment in this movie.
With lacks of coherence, some of the movies’ most contemplative moment feels tasteless. In the end, we need to acknowledge that Perburuan almost had its moment, but the whole hunt got lost in the woods of incoherence and it becomes more difficult for us to care about the movie’s fugitive.