Love is perhaps a topic that we could never get away from. Try as we might, everything comes back to love. After all, love is the strongest motivator in the world – be it romantic love, filial love, platonic love, or even material love. Yet, love has become something we often take for granted or even disrespect. And through Ziarah’s humble story, BW Purba Negara offers a gentle reminder of all that – and so much more.
In the dusk of her life, Mbah Sri (Ponco Sutiyem) only have one wish: she yearns to be entombed next to his husband. Thus, she set out on a pilgrimage to find said grave, even though it has been missing for decades.
Serene. That is the very first word that comes to mind upon watching Ziarah. It has a tranquil tone that enchants from the very start, and it palpably conveys just how BW Purba Negara treated this story – and all elements involved with it – with such deep respect. Like it is a sacred heirloom that deserves no less. “How very Javanese” is the second train of thoughts. Because much like Mbah Sri and her adherence, this movie conveys its values in silent but unwavering devotion. It carves a mark with a tender touch. It’s being heard without needing to be loud. It commands attention without meaningless shindig. In short, Ziarah is a Javanese movie through and through. Njawani, one would say in the language.
More than just a movie about Mbah Sri’s piety, however, Ziarah also wittingly explores various aspects of Javanese culture through every actions and interactions – even the language it used. Ziarah uses various degrees of Javanese language, perfectly conveying how each degree imparts different type of relationship and level of respect and closeness. The difference between talking to your lover when you’re young and when you’re much more mature and serious. The crudeness of talking to your peers and the finesse in which you address older people, along with the respect with which you address your grandparent. Ziarah’s dialogue isn’t just easy on the ear – because there is that melodious quality in the usage of Javanese language. But it’s also a sobering reminder that yes, there is a reason why Javanese language was classified into different degrees with varying level of difficulties. Which makes the usage of Indonesian in one of the scenes felt very jarring and disconcerting. Although I suppose, that means the scene does wonderfully delivers the worry of how time and changes erodes the proper usage of Javanese language.
But perhaps, the reason why culture plays such a huge part in Ziarah is because this movie truly imparts the notion that culture and nurture shapes the way we perceive and pursue love. Mbah Sri’s longing to be buried next to her husband may seems foolish to some people, even more so her decision to just search for it on foot. She may also seems irresponsible and selfish for abandoning her grandson, despite his own problem. But all those, she does because of her enduring love and devotion to her late husband. It’s her way of loving her chosen life partner, and it’s a way that is shaped by the culture she grew up and live in. The Javanese culture. And thus she love in such simple way: quiet, modest, devoted, and acquiescing. In its simplicity and candor, Mbah Sri teaches us a thing or two about love. That sometimes, it’s not the grand gesture that moves your world. It’s the humble small things that sweeps you off your feet.
True, Ziarah talks about more than just romantic love. It tells the tale of how those people in this movie view the world in unmistakably Javanese manner. How they always try to see the best in everything and make peace with whatever misfortune that befall them. How they lighten up even the most dire situation and goes through sordid times by making jokes and laugh together. How they hold on to what they believe because, at the end of the day, things will unfold the way it was meant to be. In terms of Javanese values, Ziarah is the other side of the coin to the rather rigid and suffocating values I normally associates with Javanese culture. Because deep down, it’s a humble way of life that enchants with its simplicity and unselfish way. Yet, it offers a peek on not only Javanese culture. But also Operation Kraai (commonly known in Indonesia as Second Dutch Military Aggression) and its anecdotes, along with stories about other military-related activities and how it affects the life of the people in those small villages. And while it is a very modest movie, it is in no way shorts of money shots and aesthetically pleasing visuals. With quotable lines to boot.
In Ziarah, Mbah Sri’s wayfaring takes us on a walk through a cultural memento. It’s a promenade of love and devotion, presented by BW Purba Negara in a graceful and revered manner with the help of Ponco Sutiyem’s stunning delivery. Ziarah explores how it meant to love and live as a Javanese – simply, humbly, and resolutely. Serenely touching but still playfully fun at times, Ziarah is a balanced cinematic experience that left a lasting impression.
Director: BW Purba Negara. Writer: BW Purba Negara. Released on: 18 Mei 2017. Casts: Ponco Sutiyem, Rukman Rosadi, Ledjar Subroto, Vera Prifatamasa.
PS: Makam wae ono sing nyanding, lah kowe kapan tak sanding?