Tuesday, February 28, 2006
I'm not going to review this in the usual manner. I hope I'll be able to dwell much more on what this movie meant to me, and how I related to it. It isn't easy, as my thoughts have been rather scattered, because Gubra meant a lot as I ponder during different times. I am most likely to watch it again, after yesterday's world premiere at GV Grand. So before I begin, let me warn you that the rest of this review (if I may still call it so) is full of spoilers. So watch the movie, then come back and read the rest of it. We will agree to disagree, and I truly welcome your views on your emotions towards this excellent movie. But before you leave, remember, you ABSOLUTELY MUST stay behind for ONE SCENE at the END OF THE CREDITS. You will not be disappointed.
First and foremost, the characters. It's an ensemble expanded by including a parallel story, for comparison, about the family of a muezzin, the irony of his being neighbours with prostitutes. Gubra's other story is more familiar territory, a continuation of Orked's life, being seven years after Jason's death in Sepet. Orked is back from England, and is now married to Arif (Adlin Aman Ramlie), and seems to be having a happily married life. In a comical buildup to the hospital scene, we are quickly introduced to Orked's family, like her loving parents, the housemaid, and the driver.
Having her father hospitalized allowed Orked the chance meeting with Alan Lee (Alan Yun, with a super nerdy hairstyle at first), who's the married brother (now divorced from his Singaporean wife) of Jason, her all so sweet Ah-Seng boyfriend from Sepet. The Lee family too is in the hospital, because the Nonya mum pushed the Chinese dad over a staircase, much like their constant fights which we're familiar with.
But the richness is in the relationships between the characters. Is love and forgiveness, intertwined? Probably. We contrast adultery experienced by a modern couple, and that between traditional folks of an older generation. On one hand, we have the blissful, model couple in Orked's parents and the muezzin and his wife, but on the other, it seemed that the Lees, in spite of their constant squabbling, actually do love each other, in a rather subdued manner. Spouses who stick together despite abuse, is it because there's no choice, or does it demonstrate to a certain extent, true love, and constant forgiveness towards the hateful things one says to another? It's interesting to see that there were certain dialogue which mentioned the potential "goodness" of marrying to someone of a different race, but we know, at the end of the day, idealistic as it may sound, it all boils down to the basic conduct of how a person lives out his humanity. On a rather lighthearted note, we also see a budding infatuation between a hospital attendant and Orked's maid, contributing to the initial stage of budding love, and jealousy which the driver experienced.
It's a totally different ballgame in the muezzin storyline. We do see the very close knit family unit of a religious man, which is contrasted with that of the single parent prostitute who has to bring up her young son. She does what she does out of pure basic survival, and is seeking forgiveness from God for the lifestyle she decided upon. The introduction of a gambler used to portray domestic violence was painful to watch, though it is through these episodes and down-trodden characters, we see the compassion extended by the muezzin and hi wife. They live simply, but are happy with their lot. Something that we can emulate with being contented with what we have.
The usual social observations that we noticed in Sepet also found its footing in Gubra. You wonder and are amazed at how the director managed to skillfully weave them in together with the narrative. It doesn't prod disrespectfully, but in subtleness lies its effectiveness. The multi-lingual, racial, religious society of Malaysia is again highlighted through the same narrative style, be it in dialogue or action. Liked that moment of conversation Orked shared with Alan when in his pickup truck en route to some grub. Indeed being in a multi-ethnic country ourselves, we can identify easily with almost everything discussed on screen.
Gubra, like Sepet, started off simple, as simple as butter spread on bread, breakfast lovingly made by a wife for her husband in the early morning. But just like Sepet, if I could paraphrase what Yasmin mentioned, we are taken on a joyride before thrown on the tracks. Gubra had a simple intro to the muezzin storyline, and a comedic intro to Orked's story. But things aren't meant to last as we see. Like Sepet, we are drawn into their world through its light hearted moments, yet we witness events that spiral emotionally downwards from then on.
Being cheated upon and having promises broken is never easy to handle. It makes it worse when matrimonial vows are broken so easily, as we witness with Arif's infidelity, and his constant lies. It's painful to watch Orked undergo this betrayal, although she managed to keep herself composed (I wonder if it's a conscious effort on hairstyling, during the funny periods in the beginning, it was like a lion's mane, and when she left the husband, it's all coiffed up nicely). We know she's capable of having stand up for herself given her strong will, and leaving her husband, given her leaving Jason when he confessed to having impregnated someone else.
But we're led into another theme of forgiveness, if she'll forgive Arif just as she forgave Jason. One might say that it is easier to forgive the latter because there was no sacred vows taken between man and wife. That of forgiveness and compassion also featured in the other storyline. Compassion through inaction can serve as a double edged sword. While you hope that through compassion, you would touch another person to change their ill ways, but if it's a deep rooted rot, we'll never know how we could have helped to avoid tragedy, if we had not exhibited that emotion in the first place.
There are plenty of scenes which highlights Yasmin's wry humour, sometimes to elevate the seriousness and tragedy, without much dialogue, but told through images. Like the scene in the clinic where the erectile dysfunction poster teases you, yet you're anticipating the discovery of the seriousness of an illness not mentioned explicitly, but suggested through another common poster. Or the savage attack near the end, which we do not get to see, but we know from an earlier scene how wrong and dangerous it can get.
There are 2 most powerful scenes in the movie, at least for me, which made me almost tear. The first was the scene where Alan brought Orked to his home, to his brother's room, to handover Jason's letters, which Jason didn't have the courage to deliver, his poetry books, and his broken handphone, which was still ringing when the paramedics arrived at the scene. In the beginning of Alan's and Orked's encounter, there was a mention, and a quizzical look from Orked, as if in disbelief, that she was so sure she had indeed spoken to her loved one. That scene in the bedroom, when she delicately handled the items, was so silently sad. In Sepet, she cried so hard when she reluctantly read Jason's letter en route to the airport, and here we feel her immense feeling of loss, after what she had gone through. It almost made me wanna cry, and lend her my shoulder to cry on too, just like Alan did.
The other scene would be the scene after the end credits rolled. To my surprise, we see Orked snuggled against Jason, and he was wearing a wedding ring. Did this happen in the past? Was she dreaming of what could have been? Or was it a figment of her imagination, the crystallization of her sense of longing to be in safe arms after her disappointing marriage? Yasmin shared with my friends and I about the true meaning/purpose of this scene, but I felt it's a bit tongue-in-cheek leh. Yasmin, serious ah? :-D
I would recommend that you rewatch Sepet again before you watch Gubra, not that Gubra can't stand on its own, but I feel you'll be able to relate to Gubra and her characters and themes even more. If you can't get your hands on the DVD, then make your way to the local theatres as there is gonna be a rescreening. Watch Sepet, watch Gubra, and let's discuss the movies over a cup of tea.
It's simple, yet complicated. Beautiful, yet tragic. I heart this movie!
Posted by Stefan S at 10:30 pm