Thursday, December 8, 2016
Hanyut ( a review)
Today theSun published a review on Hanyut, the movie under the direction of U- Wei Hj Saari
SET IN the 1830s, the story revolves around a man who is consumed by two dreams he holds dear, which inadvertently cause his downfall. Kasper Almayer (O’Brien) is a Dutch trader living in colonial Malaya and with the white man’s superiority complex over the natives of the land. He has two dreams. The first is that his daughter, Nina, who is of mixed blood (half-Malay, half-Dutch) should be brought up as a westerner and not a local. So he sends the 10-year-old Nina to Singapore to be educated as a westerner. His second dream is to find a mystical mountain of gold hidden deep in the jungle that the local people talked about. He hopes the riches from the mountain will allow him to return to his home in Europe in glory with his daughter Nina by his side. His local wife, Mem Putih (Sofia), hates him for separating her from her only child. Her mission in life is to bring pain to him the way he had brought pain into her life.
After 10 years, Nina (Diana) returns home as a beautiful young woman from Singapore. She discovers that her father’s business is in the dire straits all because he has neglected his business to channel all his focus in finding that golden mystical mountain. The possibility of finding the mountain becomes closer when Almayar meets with a Malay prince named Dain Maroola (Adi), who is looking to get his hands on gunpowder. Dain promises to show the location of the gold mountain to Almayer if the trader can supply him with gunpowder. Unknown to Almayer, Dain has no idea where the mountain is. He lies so that he can get the gunpowder. Things get complicated when Nina and Dain fall in love. Nina is certain that her father will never give his blessing to their union. Mem Putih cunningly persuades her daughter to elope with Dain. Mem knows that the ideaof Nina marrying a Malay man will bring tremendous pain to Almayer.
Director U-Wei has done a brilliant job depicting how dreams can sometimes destroy us in Hanyut, his latest film. It shows how Almayer’s two dreams consume his soul and crush him forever. The transformation of Almayer from an arrogant man to a broken and hopeless one is well captured. You will hate him when the movie begins and you will end up pitying him when the movie ends.
I really believe Hanyut has one of the best opening scenes in a Malaysian film. The camera zooms in on a Chinese man (a cameo appearance by Patrick Teoh) smoking opium. Even under the spell of drug, the Chinese man could still hear the screams of a mother being separated from a child. The pain of a mother is indeed difficult to ignore.
But Hanyut is far from perfect. For starters, Sofia Jane’s portrayal as Mem Putih do not strike chord with me. She is far too dramatic in her portrayal of a woman holding a grudge against her husband. This is not an easy statement for me to write as Sofia Jane is my all-time favourite local actress. I always feel she does her best acting when she is subtle. Her eyes are enough to express the emotions she goes through. But in Hanyut, sadly, that subtlety is missing. U-Wei could have given the film a better pacing and the storyline could have been tighten. If comparisons have to be made, UWei’s previous movies such as Kaki Bakar and Jogho give off an intensity that could burn your heart. But this intensity is somewhat missing in Hanyut. Despite these weaknesses, Hanyut is still a winner in my book and I would not be surprised if the film pick up a few major awards at the upcoming Malaysian film festival. Looks like U-Wei might have to make more room to put his growing number of awards.