I rarely had free time to go to the cinema these weeks and when I did have, I skipped “Iron Man 3” and chose “What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love” instead (I’ll shorten this too long title just as “Don’t Talk Love"). “Don’t Talk Love” had its premiere on this year’s Sundance Film Festival as one of the contenders of Grand Jury Prize in category “World Cinema – Dramatic” and, proudly, this is the first Indonesian movie that goes to Sundance. Mouly Surya, the director, has impressed me with her latest film, “fiksi.”, so it didn’t take long for “Don’t Talk Love” to be included in my watchlist.
“Don’t Talk Love” sets on a special school for visually impaired students in Jakarta. Diana (played by Karina Salim) is a low-vision teenage girl who is unable to see things clearly without special glasses she owns, while her friend Fitri (played by Ayushita Nugraha) has been blind since birth. Diana falls in love with a blind student, Andhika (played by Anggun Priambodo), while Fitri traps in a passionate relationship with Edo (played by Nicholas Saputra), a mute-deaf young man. In the other hand, Maya (played by Lupita Jennifer) is a visually impaired girl pursuing her dream as an actress and singer.
The movie starts so beautifully with song “Burung Camar” sung by each student in the school, being an impressive indication that viewers will be taken to a whole new world: a world where sensory perception deals more than visual. Not a mainstream background, but it still is a real piece of life in the overwhelmingly massive city like Jakarta. It is so interesting that, rather than making viewers put either sympathy or support to the situation, “Don’t Talk Love” simply explains that these disabled students are just similar to normal people. They pursue their dreams, they show interest to art and sport, they do daily prayer, they have chit-chats, and—most of all—they are able to fall in love. However differently these people behave, they are all similar to us inside (and notice that disabled people are different from mental illness sufferer). I myself don’t have any experiences with disabled people but it seems that Mouly and her actors had a deep research about them. When we usually see this premise ends up in a tear-jerking story, “Don’t Talk Love” quits this habit and establishes a new ground of presentation where all the differences become charms and magics instead of instruments of sympathy.
Mouly Surya understands that love is a language of emotion. That is why, the feeling of love is supposed to be manifested by more than just words. Here, she presented a non-casual fashion of love out of the way typical lovebirds have. It is when mute-deaf young man fell in love with a blind girl: when Edo could only see Fitri—but not talk or listen to her—and when Fitri could only touch Edo—but not see him. It is also when a visually-impaired girl had a crush on a blind young man: when Diana and Andhika could only talk or listen to each other, but not see each other. Imagination plays wildly in their minds as a representation of the disabilities they have. A tidy presentation of how love can be built in an unusual way without reducing the value of love itself even in a bit. Finally, it turns out to be a sweet, quite magical story of love that goes as a universal language, not just a formal package of senses.
I don’t want to say that this is a problem, but maybe “Don’t Talk Love” is not everyone's cup of tea. Compared to “fiksi.”, “Don’t Talk Love” is more to be a descriptive presentation rather than a narrative story. Although it describes nicely about the life of the disabled (and puts great effort in making it less different when it comes to love and teenage life), it has many scenes that barely contain any connections to the story itself. We will see many scenes of Fitri walking down the path from her room to the pool to meet the “ghost doctor”, or of Diana being curious about her maturity and appearance, or else. They do have meanings, but in a glimpse, they sometimes feel draggy and empty. Moreover, there are times when viewers’ imaginations are involved (in the middle part there is a kind of twist that potentially makes confused viewers become way more confused :3). There is even a totally inaudible, totally mute scenes when we are brought to Edo's point of view. Strongly described, but peculiarly explained. That is why, average viewers might just avoid watching this movie (and choose “Iron Man 3” instead) because it seems so experimental and new for them.
But, thanks to great acting by the performers. Ayushita and Karina are so deeply into their characters, and so are Anggun and Nicholas. I don't really understand about Lupita's character because, well, maybe this is about that "twisting" part in the middle. Great contributions were made by the score and cinematography. "Don't Talk Love" is almost dialogue-less, and while most of the characters are visually-impaired, messages are transferred to the viewers more by visual aspects. In "Don't Talk Love", a single shot speaks a thousand words, involves mixed emotions, and is worth various meanings. Mouly likes to play with long scenes to affirm certain aspect which some viewers may find too rambling (remember the scene when Diana combed her hair 100 times: she started counting from 75!), but this adds up nicely to the movie itself. Zeke Khaseli's scoring tastes like a riddle, points out a nuance that the movie is a dreamy adventure, and combines perfectly with the cinematography. Feels a bit similar to that of "fiksi.", but is still very ear-catching.
At the end, "Don't Talk Love" is a nice wrap-up of a non-mainstream story of love. I agree that maybe it bites off more than it can chew, but it rounds up as a fresh lecture for us to think and perceive more than just to be dictated—and that is how love is supposed to be treated. Innocent, beautifully crafted, and sweet. I hope we can see more films like this in our local movie industry. A great job!
▲ Non-mainstream love story, good acting, nice cinematography and score
▼ A bit draggy, Maya's characterization
WHAT THEY DON'T TALK ABOUT WHEN THEY TALK ABOUT LOVE | ORIGINAL TITLE Yang Tidak Dibicarakan Ketika Membicarakan Cinta COUNTRY Indonesia YEAR 2013 RATING Dewasa RUNTIME 106 mins GENRE Drama, Romance CAST Ayushita Nugraha, Nicholas Saputra, Karina Salim, Anggun Priambodo, Lupita Jeniffer WRITER Mouly Surya DIRECTOR Mouly Surya MORE INFO