Liva

LIVER
(Starvision)
directed by Hanny R. Saputra (Virgin, Mirror)
starring Nirina Zubir, a Peterpan’s Ariel lookalike, a girl with a really big head who looks about twelve

Rachel grew up with Farel. They played one-on-one basketball, had a really great treehouse which only Rachel could climb, and played practical jokes on each other—of which their favorites was playing dead, one of them would fake an accidental death and wait for the other to pinch his/her nose and put her/his mouth over his/hers to start CPR and she/he would wake up and laugh at his/her gullibility. And broke the hearts of the paedophiles in the audience.

They hit adolescence. Rachel added a skateboard, a baseball glove and an unlimited supply of extra large t-shirts to hide her curves to her list of tomboy apparel and Farel fell in love with a girl with an unlimited supply tears. No wonder, she writes a series of comic books that tells the story of a ‘sad fairy who spends her days alone, waiting for her inevitable death.’

Her name was Luna, and she was dying of cirrhosis of the liver. She kept this secret from Farel. She told him, ‘I don’t want your love,’ and broke his heart. Luckily, it was the pink styrofoam one he had brought to her house. Farel was all at sea. Why had she taken him rowing on a beautiful, misty lake only to tell him, ‘See that turtle over there? He’s just like me. Destined to spend the rest of his days alone.’ Why had she looked so happy when he got a three-piece band to serenade her at a romantic lunch in what looked like Mordor but is really just a hot water spring somewhere outside Bandung, but then pushed him away when he was just about to kiss her goodbye?

What should he do? Phone a friend?

Why phone when he could march straight into her room? Rachel, wiping away tears on her oversized, vintage Senen t-shirt, told him don’t worry and a string of nauseating clichés later, Farel is back with Luna. He’d put the sparks back into her life. And put them out of Rachel’s.

Rachel loves Farel too (fuck knows why, the guy’s pimply, wears stupid distro t-shirts that always look too shiny and new and ironed, and his hair, like Ariel’s, is a mas-mas’s idea of cool) but what could she do, she hasn’t got liver cancer!

Bring on the hospital. Where, like Suharto re: Abdul Latief has proved, any sort of plot complications can be solved. Luna’s cirrhosis went into angry, blood-spitting mode, she went into a coma, and the only thing that can save her was a better storyline, no, yes, a liver transplant. Meanwhile, Rachel’s unrequited love went into cross-country running mode and she ran and ran across a landscape that looked like Mordor but is really just a hill somewhere near Tangkuban Perahu. Was she running, like that canned-pineapple eater in Chungking Express, so she wouldn’t have to feel the pain of her sadness? Maybe. But any pain she might’ve been feeling must’ve gone after she tripped on a mangrove and fell, her body double doing an impressive imitation of Nirina Zubir rolling on a pilates ball, head first into a canyon. She went into a coma, and the same emergency room Luna was in. The doctors wanted to amputate one of Rachel’s leg, and at this point I thought the fairest thing to do was for Farel to take a cyanide capsule, Der Untergang-like, blow his brains out, and donate his leg to Rachel and his liver to Luna.

But I know that wasn’t going to happen. And you know what must’ve happened instead.

Later at Rachel’s grave (at the same Mordor-like place that everyone in this movie seemed unable to resist going to), whose funeral he didn’t attend because he was too busy laying seeds for Luna’s growing collection of pot plants (yeah right!, you were laying seeds alright you proto-Ariel you!), Rachel’s mother handed Farel a letter Rachel had written on her deathbed. The voiceover (with echoy, from behind the grave sound FX of course) said plaintively, ‘Dear Farel, I’ve donated my liver to Luna, because, though I’ve never told you, my liver has always been for you, so now, my liver, inside her, will always be with you forever.’

I’m not making any sense? Retranslate the English back into Indonesian.

HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!

In his interview with Koran Tempo today (Sunday, 14 May 2006), Hanny R. Saputra explained that he again used an English title for his movie (after Virgin and Mirror) because he wanted to ‘go with the kids. It’s cooler. Easier on your tongue. Heart, than ‘hati’, ….’ He also said he’s so busy making films these days, he can’t be bothered to watch movies anymore. Or it seems, learn English.

PS1: it’s true that the centre of the love universe in a lot of, mostly non-AngloSaxon, cultures is in the liver. But though you could read Hanny’s film as a postcolonial warcry to take love back down to the liver: don’t. Because it’s not. And it’s not the first time Hanny (ab)used English in his movies. Remember the Truth or Dare scene in Virgin? One fresh-faced faced virgin gift-wrapped just for you if you could find Truth in that game. It was more like Dare and Dare!

PS2: my girlfriend said that the storyline in this movie was lifted from a Taiwanese romantic comedy. And that a lot of the scenes looked like screen adaptations of those Elex Japanese comics that people read standing up in Gramedia. That’s why there was a lot of emotional jumpcuts in the movie, a character cries and then next second, laughs like a little girl. Rachel would give up everything for Farel then next frame, she tries to run him over in her Land Rover. Kitschy subtext, kinda funny. Went totally over my head. I was thinking they were more like those exaggerated emotional shorthands in sinetrons (ie., she wants to run him over in her Land Rover = she’s angry; she’s sad, but people don’t like seeing sad people sad all the time = make her laugh, like, now. Don’t worry if she had just woken up from a 10-hour operation for a liver transplant). The whole system a shorthand for let’s make the story go quicker and money flow endlessly into Starvision’s coffers.

©® Mikael Johani 2006

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