Inspired by ‘The Abduction of Sita’ from the ancient Indian and South East-Asian literary classic The Ramayana, OPERA JAWA is a unique musical tale of love, lust and tragedy. Setio and his wife Siti, own a pottery business in a small village ran by Ludiro, a powerful and ruthless businessman. Ludiro, who is in love with Siti, seizes his chance when the couple’s business collapses. He abducts and tries to seduce Siti. The two men fight and inevitably jealousy spills over into violence and tragedy.
Story’s kernel is taken from “The Abduction of Sinta,” one of the most popular tales in the Hindu epic “Ramayana.” Nugroho updates the legend and sets it closer to the present day, with Slamet Gundono as a singing storyteller to give background and explain the action.
Before her marriage, Siti (Artika Sari Devi) was a Javanese dancer known for interpreting the role of Sinta, the beautiful wife of Rama seized by a powerful king. Out of respect for hubby Setio (Martinus Miroto), also a former dancer, she gave up performing and works with him in his earthenware business, which has fallen on hard times.
Called away on business, Setio is unaware that local kingpin Ludiro (Eko Supriyanto) is determined to have Siti for his own. Feral and dripping in sexual enticements (Supriyanto is one helluva dancer), Ludiro tries luring her with incense, sparking her inner desires in an extraordinarily erotic scene.
Ludiro isn’t the village’s favorite son: He terrorizes locals and makes sure that businesses are in thrall to him and his gang of dancing hoodlums. Mom Sukesi (the elegant Retno Maruti) knows her boy is trouble, but helps him woo Siti anyway with an enormous red cloth that Christo would envy.
Wanting to be true to her husband but undeniably attracted to Ludiro’s forceful charms, Siti winds up a pawn between the two and their escalating conflicts.
All this is fleshed out by multiple dance troupes, 400 extras, and a bewildering array of props made by some of Indonesia’s foremost conceptual artists. Conical rice scoops become masks to terrorize; an extraordinary maze made of coconut shells (by Nindityo Adipurnomo) acts as a trap; and everywhere, white corpses and red wax heads are meant to remind auds of the human toll behind all acts of violence.
Subtitles:English srt, English & Dutch sub/idx