Watched Bunohan the second time with M (Malaysian, Raja Yoga Instructor and Practitioner), F (Iranian, PhD candidate in Literature), S (Iranian, Documentary director) and Fern (Portuguese, Architect). And of course, K, my wife.
It was a Sunday evening, at Mid Valley. The hall was about 70% full. The weather was a bit cloudy but was otherwise fine.
This time around, I paid more attention to the architecture of the movie. I spent more time looking at the screen instead of reading the subtitles.
This post might contain spoilers. Perhaps some really serious spoilers. Read on if you do not mind.
From the beginning, the story is supposed to be a folklore. What happened in the movie is just “hearsay”. No one really knew what happened. This was made clear at the beginning where the guys sat in the dark chatting and we hear the real names of the actors being mentioned. That is the real world, or is it?
We are challenged from the beginning itself on what is real, and what is not. An existential question. Some discussions followed after the movie between us.
Essentially, this is a Shakespearean drama. F mentioned King Lear. Cain and Abel. Fern said the movie is very “European” in feeling.
Ilham himself is interesting. A cold-blooded assassin. But engrossed, throughout the movie, to relocate graves and to find his mother’s grave. And at the end, asked for his life to be traded with his brother, which he knew will not happened (I conjectured this romantic side of him). He knew his request to have his brother spared will not be honored given his experience in that dark trade. But he still asked. This is a great transformation for this character. Or perhaps he never changed. He was forced into the trade but how and why? He mentioned far-away lands, Paris, Marseilles. A romantic assassin who never left his mom and the memories with her. This is a painful man. A divided man. A romantic man. The magic realism moment with the talking bird is actually him talking to himself. His other half talking to the other half.
The use of local folklore, buaya jadian, hantu budak, etc. gave another layer to the movie, making the story-telling that much more interesting compared to a pure linear way of story-telling. It seems like the spirits knew everything. The spirits are themselves nature. I love the scene where Mek Yeh spoke to the hantu budak, on the songs, on love lost, on stories lost, etc. I read some critics saying the actress does not perform on par with the other actors who performed brilliantly but I beg to differ. I think the character suited her very much. She is the all yielding, earthy type of character and I think she played it well.
The cinematography is so beautiful, it is almost distracting the story and other more subtle elements.
This movie made me think of Yasmin Ahmad. I really miss her movies sometimes. Bunohan is of course not Sepet and Sepet is of course not Bunohan. Yasmin is like Ozu. Dain is like Kurosawa. But that’s just me.