Review: ‘The Stringless Violin’

Low-brow filmmaking meets high-proof romance for the sort of ultra-sentimental story characteristic of Indonesian cinema. Emotions aren't just on the sleeve, but oozing from every frame. Has played well to local auds and picked up a few fest laurels along the way to commercial play mostly in East Asia.

In tyro writer-helmer Sekar Ayu Asmara’s “The Stringless Violin,” low-brow filmmaking meets high-proof romance for the sort of ultra-sentimental story characteristic of Indonesian cinema. Like the work of Asmara’s producer colleague Nia diNata, whose “A Courtesan” Asmara produced (and like that pic was, is Indonesia’s Oscar entry), emotions aren’t just on the sleeve, but oozing from every frame. Trials and tribulations of the protag, operator of a home for abandoned, handicapped kids, reaches risible levels, yet has played well to local auds and picked up a few fest laurels along the way toward commercial play mostly in East Asia.

Seemingly living a fulfilled life by caring for forgotten babies, Renjani (Ria Irawan) remains haunted by a past rape at the hands of her ballet mentor, and co-exists with her incredibly annoying pediatrician Mbak Wid (Jajung C. Noer) whose tarot readings border on the sadistic. Renjani’s motherly affections toward little Dewa (Dicky Lebrianto) keep her spirits up, but an encounter with violinist/composer Bhisma (Nicholas Saputra) launches a chaste romance undone by Renjani’s rape trauma. Third act bathos may appeal to some and raise howls with others.

The Stringless Violin

Indonesia

Production

A Kalyana Shira Film presentation. Produced by Afi Shamara, Nia diNata, Sekar Ayu Asmara. Executive producer, Seto Harjojudanto. Directed, written by Sekar Ayu Asmara; story, Asmara.

Crew

Camera (PT Inter Studio color/B&W, DV-to-35mm), German G. Mintapradja; editor, Dewi S. Alibasah; music, Addie M.S.; art director, Iri Supit. Reviewed at Palm Springs Film Festival, Jan. 10, 2004. Running time: 101 MIN.

With

Ria Irawan, Nicholas Saputra, Jajung C. Noer, Dicky Lebrianto.
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