Adapting a novel into a movie is not an easy job, I tell you. The magic of a novel is in the words, while the magic of a movie comes from its visual and story. It’s no wonder that there are many novel-into-movie adaptation do not work out. For me, “Rectoverso” is better be enjoyed as a novel instead of a movie. It’s actually a compilation of short stories by Dewi Lestari, one of the most well-known and highly-acclaimed author in Indonesia. I remember I had a chance to read one of the short stories in “Rectoverso”, and I recalled that experience as an amazing one. Dewi ‘Dee’ Lestari had a rare ability to play with metaphors in words, and while the book itself has a sense of audio-visual imagination—more than just words—“Rectoverso” the movie is not as good as the book.
There are 11 short stories in the book, but the film takes only 5 of them. First is “Malaikat Juga Tahu” (or “Angel Knows”) that talks about Abang (played by Lukman Sardi), an adult with autism who feels an awkward feeling of love to Leia (played by Prisia Nasution), the only occupant in the boarding house who can understand him. “Firasat” (or “Premonition”) is about Senja (played by Asmirandah) who had a premonition about Panca (played by Dwi Sasono), the leader of Klub Firasat (Premonition Club), which Senja becomes a member of. “Cicak di Dinding” (or “Lizard on the Wall”) is about Taja (played by Yama Carlos), an artist, who meets Saras (played by Sophia Latjuba), a free-spirited woman with a lizard tattoo on her wrist. “Curhat buat Sahabat” (or “Stories for My Best Friend”) is a chit-chat of Amanda (played by Acha Septriasa) with Reggie (played by Indra Birowo) about Amanda’s past boyfriends. The last, “Hanya Isyarat” (or “It’s Only A Sign”) centers on a getaway meeting of five backpackers, including Al (played by Amanda Soekasah) who was curious with Raga (played by Hamush Daud), one of the backpackers whom she never had a chance to know more.
I told you, I have never read the novel till finish but only have read one segment. It’s “Premonition”. Luckily, it is selected to be filmed. Well, the book itself was accompanied with songs and is filled with not only words but also photographs in such a layout that makes the readers feel more than just an experience of reading. The book was like “possessing” you to feel the story with imagination and all your five senses. When I read “Premonition”, I had this rare feeling that I was caught by how Dewi Lestari plays with metaphors—crazily—in her charming words. Her words keep me reading the whole story of “Premonition”, with a bit tearful but mostly amazement, and it’s surely an achievement. That’s why, when I know that “Rectoverso” was going to be filmed, I don’t expect that it will work as greatly as the book. And it happens. I think, it takes more than just “adapting” to re-present the feeling you had when you read the book in a form of motion picture. You need to re-create it. When I watch “Rectoverso”, it’s obviously seen how the screenwriters tried to be very keen to adapt the words into dialogue without making a good development of story. Oh, well, I have to tell you that the five segments were blended into a single plot (not separated like an anthology—they didn’t even show the title of each segments) so the story jumps from one timeline to another timeline among the five stories. If they wanna do this, I think it takes only a screenwriter instead of five screenwriters for each segment, because finally, each of them will feel so separated. The mood may blend nicely but the power (and proportion) of each segment do not. There’s no good introduction about the situation and the mood, and it makes all dialogues about life and love (and the chaos theory, and the bitter coffee, and the meaning of premonition, and whatsoever) feels unnatural. See, the dialogues are so “textbooks”. Especially in segment “Premonition”, “Lizard on the Wall”, and “It’s Only A Sign”, it is clumsy and pushed too far.
The good thing of “Rectoverso” is on the ending. Well, the low-mood it carried in the first place meets its climax in the ending, and I have to admit that I was a bit finger-snapped with the third act. Segment “Stories for My Best Friend” is quite good, but “Angel Knows” is undoubtedly the best. It’s a good effort to put it as the opening and the ending, because it really holds viewers’ attention. The music was nicely placed and arranged, making a perfect nuance settlement among viewers. There’s a lot of cinematographic portraits in “Rectoverso”, but for me it feels abundant because the shots were there not fully for the sake of supporting the stories. Finally, what I am gonna do is appreciating the cast. Seriously, “Rectoverso” is lucky to have such a bunch of nice actors and actresses in the acting department. I have to give applause to Lukman Sardi, for playing a man with autism, and he did it greatly. Prisia Nasution gives her nice acting, but finally Sardi is more attention-stealing. Indra Birowo is characterized nicely, although he gets less showtime than Acha Septriasa. But, still, Septriasa is good. I don’t nod for Yama Carlos—yet, Sophia Latjuba did a good job—not even to Hamush Daud, Amanda Soekasah, or Dwi Sasono. Actually Asmirandah is good, too, but the script of her segment didn’t work well for her.
Oh, I forget to mention the five actress-turned-directors who presented us each of their works in “Rectoverso”. For a start, it’s actually a good achievement. I love to see this; there’s a courage and spirit in how they collaborate to enliven our local cinema industry. “Rectoverso” maybe still far from being perfect—I actually was not so amused with it—but, looking far beyond, I’m interested to see more like this.
▲ Segment "Angel Knows", good casts and music placement
▼ Clumsy dialogues, very "adapted-from-the-book"
RECTOVERSO | COUNTRY Indonesia YEAR 2013 RATING 17+ RUNTIME 110 min GENRE Drama, Romance CAST Lukman Sardi, Prisia Nasution, Asmirandah, Acha Septriasa, Yama Carlos WRITER Dewi Lestari (book), Yosof Thoha, Ve Handojo, Indra Herlambang, Ilya Sigma, Priesnanda Dwisatria, Key Simangunsong (screenplay) DIRECTOR Marcella Zalianty, Rachel Maryam, Olga Lydia, Happy Salma, Cathy Sharon MORE INFO