Poetic and Moving, CINTA is a Gentle Reflection of Love and Faith
A Su, an Indonesian Chinese, asks Siti, a Muslim, to marry him. For Siti, this rather simple question proves hard to answer. A love story in a world that still bears the scars of an old wound from the past.
Director: Steven Facius
Cast: Verdi Solaiman, Titi Sjuman, Hengky Solaiman, Djenar Maesa Ayu, Mahbub Wibowo
Language: Bahasa Indonesia with English subtitles
Runtime: 28 minutes
Review by Nadia Alang
Romeo and Juliet defied their families to be together, Bella abandoned her human life to turn into a vampire for Edward – but what if these lovers hadn’t forced their love to work out? Would there even be a story to tell? These stories lead us to believe that when it comes to forbidden romances, it has to end one way or another. But in CINtA, the story of our two lovers, Siti and A Su (pronounced Ah Su) there is no sappy happy-ever-after or an over-the-top tragic ending.
The film doesn’t have a conclusive ending at all, leaving us instead with a not-so-typical cliffhanger. Indeed, this isn’t a typical ‘forbidden romance’ story in that it foregrounds delicate issues of faith and family instead of casting some unrealistic light on romance.
The faith that separates the lovers also separate their society and splits the film into two – A Su’s story and Siti’s story. Rarely do we see them together, and when they do meet, their scenes are brief and silences are prolonged. This should undermine their relationship but it works nicely here to enhance the chemistry between the two actors coming across clearly in their expressions and body language.
A Su’s father holds a deep resentment against the Muslims – and the film incorporates a lot of cut-in scenes that demonstrate this conflict alongside more nuanced, allegorical shots of objects that symbolise faith – joss sticks, burning papers, a prayer altar. A Su’s environment clearly dictates his faith but he seems to be quietly struggling with his own identity as we see him shying away from his father’s bitterness and even from the kids in the streets who name-call and tease him.
The gentle and unassuming A Su is portrayed well by Verdi Solaiman whose soft features and build make this character immediately likeable. He does not argue or force the relationship to work out, instead we see him quietly contemplating Islam as a faith in order to be with Siti. This builds up well to the shock of the moments where his pent-up feelings reveal themselves in verbal outbursts when he finally declares his love for Siti out loud.
“I could have finished the story now. Unfortunately not. Because the end of this story does not belong to me only.” With these poetic lines, we are then brought to Siti’s side of the story and the love story gets better. And sadder.
Just like her co-lead, Titi Sujman’s physical appearance resonates well with her character whose gentle demeanour seems to be a facade. Siti’s character is not as well-developed as A Su’s but it is clear that she hides her passionate side to please her pious parents. We get in touch with this side of her in a raw and intense scene, following a meeting with her new partner for an arranged marriage. With no dialogue at all, this scene is all about performance and creative direction – all of which worked beautifully.
We see her staring at her reflection in a prolonged scene with careful emphasis on her facial expressions. Her makeup is intensified, the lighting is darkened and close-ups make us more intimately in touch with this hidden side of her, as she (literally) reflects on her choices – faith or love?
Where A Su’s story is about his struggle against his own identity, Siti’s is about her struggle with her faith. Shots of the two are put in sequence with more symbols of faith – but the light hues and the voiceover narration of a poetic script makes this less tragic than it is.
A Su begins with, “Life is determined by the choice we take” and Siti says in her story, “The courage to choose is never wrong.” The script is poetic in this way – their words echo each other and their stories are the same but different. Despite their differences in faith, it is clear the two share the same values and the story shows that this in itself is a reunion of its own kind.
We don’t get a happy ending, nor a tragic ending – this is what I love about the film. We don’t get an ending at all. From all of Shakespeare’s plays to the more modern Twilight, we’ve all seen where forbidden romances can lead to but this film shows that it’s not always so predictable, or simple.
The cliffhanger leaves us with hope. Even when the film ends, Siti and A Su’s love story does not – as Siti puts it nicely, “This story never ends.”
You can watch CINtA here.