Drama, Films, Indonesia, Recommended posts, Reviews, Romance

Ave Maryam

Evocative of the forbidden love in the films of Wong Kar-wai, Ave Maryam is an enjoyable slow exotic audience pleaser…

Exotic tales of lust and guilt are as old as time, and the tale of the forbidden fruit is but the cornerstone that some religions are built upon. It’s unsurprising then that director Robby Ertanto has shot a film that directly places (and recreates that arc of Adam and Eve) these lusts of the soul in a religious setting, creating a devastating silent battle between the heart and the head.

In Ave Maryam, we meet Sister Maryam (Maudy Koesnaedi) who is a nun living devotedly in a Semarang Catholic monastery. Her life is simple; her jobs are taking care of the monastery and the wellness of other nuns such as the elder Sister Monic (Tutie Kirana), and her few personal interests include nighttime reading. As the film glides along with the stillness of a spreading puddle, a new handsome and musical priest, Father Yosef (Chicco Jerihko), arrives at the monastery. Thus begins the story of their forbidden and sinful romance.

Guilt is a strong passion that riddles both characters throughout the movie. We see Maryam fight strongly both for and against her vows, being emotionally torn apart as those around her can only help to bolster her faith and religious passion. Yosef meanwhile is looked upon by other nuns as the usurper. The new temptuous interloper who the nuns shun and cast shame towards, but sins of passion are a two-sided coin.

The film itself doesn’t go to great lengths to show their blossoming romance, or dig deep into the guilt of the characters and the consecration of their life-long vows. It feels more focused upon creating beautiful imagery that weaves a luscious film to watch. Whilst the director has stated he wanted to create a film for religious viewers in Indonesia that openly questions religion and will start debate, the most depth we get to the lusts of Maryam and Josef is one short but passionate scene on a beach. Their romance feels fleeting, an afterthought with minimal build-up in a film that’s solely based around the concept of their passion. Yosef feels infallible in moments, portrayed as a lively orchestra conductor who is fresh and kind. The monastery and local children meanwhile love Maryam, but she has a slight taste for reading books such as Madame Bovary

One of the few areas in which Ave Maryam is infallible is in the cinematography. Each frame is lovingly crafted, and this attention to detail from cinematographer Ical Tanjung only helps to heighten the sense of forbidden love. Here is this beautiful landscape, these idyllic surroundings on religious ground, but they’re desecrated by the lying hidden passions of our protagonists.

Audiences that keep their wits about them will recognize Joko Anwar in his cameo as a priest. The other main roles themselves are well acted, however, Chicco Jerikho doesn’t have much time to breathe or work on his character of Father Yosef. We see the hard work of Maudy Kusnaedi around the monastery, her gentleness with the other nuns and passion for her faith, but Chicco’s character is almost an unknown quantity in this film. Perhaps the passion for the unknown is better left unresolved for the audience.

The central ideology of Ave Maryam is a taboo subject in Indonesia, and when the film releases locally I get the feeling it’s going to get a hard time and cause a lot of questions, especially the naked scenes. The film is emotionally destroying; it gradually sweeps you up throughout the swift runtime and then breaks down upon the viewer. It’s deliciously shot and edited together, which is even more impactful when you know the film was essentially shot in 9 days. The crew worked for free, the equipment was borrowed, and the end result is this short but passionate film that’s going to raise awareness about love and religion in Indonesia through cinema.

Ave Maryam screened as part of the 12th CinemAsia Film Festival 2019.

About the author

Andrew Daley
News Editor for easternKicks, and a Video Producer for Cycling Weekly based in London, with a passion for East Asian cinema, photography, and the outdoors. Read reviews/articles »
Read all posts by Andrew Daley

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