While awaiting the premiere of Mukhsin here, it's by incredible luck that I've managed to locate the Rabun VCD, and have the opportunity to watch writer-director Yasmin Ahmad's first feature length movie, after having enjoyed Sepet and Gubra so much, with the former still my personal #1 favourite movie.
The story is clearly an ode to Yasmin's parents, as the focus is squarely on the on screen version of Pak Atan (M Rajoli) and Mak Inom (Kartina Aziz). It's a simple heartfelt story on the elderly folks as they journey out from the city to the village, where life is perceived to be easier, the neighbours nicer, and the environment just less complicated. But a series of events force them to rethink these assumptions, especially after interactions with Yem and his stepmother.
What raised some eyebrows as personified by the Yasin character, is the observation of how love is professed amongst Pak and Mak. I don't see any qualms about them showering together, or tickling each other, but these are a flavour of some of the scenes in Sepet which got cut. Perhaps, like Yasin, some folks do take a while to get used to these lovey-dovey elements being portrayed, if one adopts a more conservative stand and freak out in knowing their elderly parents still make love.
The cinematic style used in Rabun is clearly not the usual, with dialogue said without being seen, with the camera rarely moving, plenty of static shots or just the absence of close ups at times, preferring to film the scene from afar. As in Yasmin's later movies, Rabun is filled with an excellent soundtrack of music from everywhere, and I like that psychedelic sounding Thai music used, as well as the song used for the opening credits.
In the world that Yasmin weaved in her movies, although the names of the characters are the same (Orked's family), the movies feel related to one another, but not in the most direct of ways. You could force Rabun to be positioned much after the sequence of events in Gubra, but then again it somehow doesn't seem quite right. However, because the source and inspiration is the same, the characteristics of Pak and Mak do come across in similar fashion, no matter which movies, but as of now, I still prefer the Harith-Iskander-Ida-Nerina pairing. Look out for familiar faces playing different roles in Rabun and Gubra too!
Being Yasmin's first movie, I would like to think of Rabun as being the melting pot of ideas. Like how the character of Elvis (played by Malaysian director Ho Yuhang), a Chinese guy explaining his fear of marrying a Muslim girl (inter-racial romance in Sepet), certain touching dialogue making their way to the later films, said by the same characters, or a precursor to certain events that are played out in more detail (Pak's illness in Gubra). For some reason I can't hold my enthusiasm when I saw Pak and Mak riding on a bicycle, a scene which we'll see with the young Mukhsin and Orked.
And yes, I've finally seen the kuching berak! :-D
P.S. I'm still not quite satisfied with watching this once, will probably watch it again soon enough. And I lament that I'm probably missing quite a bit as certain lengthy dialogue were summarized in the English subtitles. I also suspect that there is more beneath the surface because it's hard to believe it's so deceptively simple, but I just can't articulate it properly after one viewing.