Berlinale 2012 | Kebun Binatang (Postcards from the Zoo)

Last weekend was our Berlinale time. The whole film festival took place on 9-19 February 2012, but the ones we would like to see just happens to be on that last weekend. Ten films (five of them are shorts) in three days, spanning eight countries and six languages. It’s quite a lot to digest, which was why I’m only able to write down my thoughts today.

The one movie I was really looking forward to see is “Kebun Binatang” (Postcards from the Zoo). It’s the first Indonesian movie to compete for the Berlinale award, and it made me feel somewhat proud of being Indonesian (even though I had nothing to do with the movie :D).

Postcards from the Zoo
Postcards from the Zoo

Postcards from the Zoo tells a story about Lana (Ladya Cheryl), a young woman who spent almost all of her life in the zoo. Her father left her there when she was four, and then she was adopted by it*. The story fast forwards to the adult Lana, who becomes one with the zoo and dreams of touching the giraffe’s belly someday. She is so in tune with the animals, being friends with all the workers there, and just sort of everything doer. One day, Lana starts seeing this young cowboy (Nicolas Saputra) in the zoo.  She wonders if he was even real at all. But as her zoo life starts falling apart, she decides to go out of the zoo and follow him instead. Where would she end up? Would she be able to fulfill her dream?

*** Warning! The review may contain SPOILERS ***

This film is all about metaphors and it’s one of those that gave me a “The Emperor’s New Clothes” effect. I don’t think I get all of the metaphors, but I kept thinking whether it was just my limited imaginations, should I try harder? Or maybe I could just pretend I understand everything?

Well, I’m going to be honest, and I will tell you my thoughts about it. Whether I might or might not truly get the movie.

The good points are I appreciate its breaking out of the common norm in Indonesian movies. It’s quite bizarre in its storytelling and honest in some other parts (not trying to teach you some moral grounds or being politically correct or anything like that).

I also quite like the use of metaphors in Lana’s life as the stages of animals in the zoo: captivity, reintroducing to the natural habitat, and so on. It gives you the whole general view about what the story is all about. Lana was just like an animal there, being in captivity all of her life, she might just lose her ability to be a free person.

What I’m confused about is the many shots of the zoo. When things are told in metaphors, shouldn’t everything have a meaning? Or would it be okay for some to not make sense? I could only understand the connection with the giraffe. The tiger and hippos kind of confused me… there is some connection but it felt forced, not as well thought as the others. The rollercoaster and other attractions just seemed too random… and even though it does give some sense of ambience, I found that it felt like it’s weighing the story down.

Lana’s character is also come across as very detached. I couldn’t feel any emotional connection with her, not sympathizing with her. She seemed to be narrating her own story from the outside. Not that it’s a bad thing, it just feels weird. I’m actually hoping this is intentional, because I found Ladya Cheryl portrayed this part very well.

I felt rather disappointed with the ending, because even though it does answer some questions, it doesn’t resolve things. Although to the film’s defense, it’s a festival film, which means this kind of alternative ending is quite common.

All in all, the film gave me a strange feeling of curious confusion. Did Luna really experience all this? Were she just living a sad life and trying to escape in her imagination?

Verdict: Is it worth watching? YES. But keep an open mind. If you have a different point of view after watching this, or if you think I’m missing something, please feel free to leave a comment or contradict me.

* Yes, I meant the zoo. Everything in it, including the people, animals, and attractions.


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