Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sang Penari

I went to see Sang Penari with my mom and auntie O, who are/were both dancers, a while back.

It's an old story about boy meets girl, girl's parents poison the village. Girl wants to become a ronggeng to clean the family's name, the boy is jealous of all the men sleeping with the girl.

Mom's comment: What's the big deal? The story is so-so.
Auntie O's comment: It's alright. It's funny how women wanted her hubby to sleep with the Ronggeng. It doesnt make sense.

I found the movie is interesting. First, we learnt that Ronggeng is not merely a prostitute disguised as a dancer as most of us city slickers would've thought. Apparently there is a mystical element of a true ronggeng. For example if you have trouble conceiving, you might want to have your husband sleeping with the ronggeng first before trying it out again with you. A ronggeng sleeping around brings blessing to the village. Come to think of it, if I'm not mistaken, some pagan beliefs mentioned that sexual conduct creates the biggest energy in the universe. It gets you closer to the higher being. The prayer ritual before one dances is still exist in the entertainment world. Apparently by performing such ritual the dancer's performance will mesmerized the audience. It also protects the dancer from evil spirits when they have to dance certain dance which is believed to have a spiritual meaning/significance. I've heard and seen the rituals before.

We also learnt about how the communism seeped into our villages back in the day. How illiterate villagers were promised to have a better lives and to be given a plot of land they can call their own instead of working as a worker for some landlord. The villagers' dream of a good life would one day back fired when the military use the list of those 'getting food stamp from the commie'was used to exterminate the communist party members/supporters. A genocide. The depiction of this scene is important as most of us only learn at school that the communist party (PKI) did a coup and therefore they had to be exterminated. Those of us who grew up in the 80s at one point had to watch the (propaganda) G30S movie which depicted the cruelty of commies which later on was refuted by many scholars. We had never learnt that there were innocent people fell victims during that time because someone spread rumors that they were member/supporter of PKI or other communism related parties, or just like in the movies, people who thought they will get a plot of land or was sent abroad to the eastern block to study to better their life.

On the lighter-side, it's amusing to see the appearing and disappearing of Srintil's boobs. I called it "ilmu bencong"-trannny's knowledge- since they are almost none when she wears kebaya but almost fall out of her kemben, the traditional corset. At least we know she doesnt have any boobs job. The question is how big was her 'chicken fillet'?

I've seen a tayub/ronggeng in Lampung at a wedding, at the time, there were 20 dancers dancing with the guests. When I saw Srintil dancing in the movie, she reminded me of Didik Nini Thowok, a world class cross-gender dancer who has some of his (two-faces) dances inspired by ronggeng.


colson said...

So, after reading your review, "Sang Penari" to me seems worthwhile going to the cinema to see it ( once it's subtitled in English and have been launched in Europe).

I tend to share your aunt's comment though - why on earth should you encourage your partner to fool around with others :).

Anyhow the concept "ronggeng" triggered a memory. It turned out I was right; Rob Nieuwenhuys (using his pen name Breton de Nijs - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Nieuwenhuys) compared gonggreng dancers to the Greek Hetaera in his photo-book "Tempo Doeloe".

Obviously there are important differences, however their function in society, their social position and status seem to be strikingly similar.

triesti said...

@colson, it already has subtitle, I had to read the English subtitle because they use a lot of Banyumasan dialect :D

Yes, I remember reading about similar 'position' as ronggeng in the ancient world.