Marlina The Murderer in Four Acts, by Mouly Surya
A vengeful woman, the heroine of an offbeat western. A Quentin Tarantino film? No, this is the creation of Mouly Surya, a young Indonesian director.
A remarkable director
Born in 1980, Mouly Surya is one of the most prominent Indonesian female film-makers of her generation. Her career began in 2007, when she founded the company Cinesurya in Jakarta, with producer Rama Adi, to make her own films. She directed her first feature film the following year, Fiksi, winner of the best Indonesian director prize at the Jakarta Film Festival.
Her second fictional film, What They Don't Talk About When They Talk About Love (2013), propelled the young film-maker onto the international stage. The film was notably selected at the American Sundance Festival in 2013.
A tragedy in four acts
Mouly Surya's film is divided into four acts which tell the tale of Marlina’s tragedy. With the memory of her son in her head, and the mummified body of her husband trussed up in the living room, Marlina lives alone in the isolated hills of an Indonesian island. One day, bandits attack with the intention of stealing her livestock and raping her.
Without batting an eyelid, Marlina kills six of them and beheads their leader. But this revenge is not enough for the pretty young widow, who is determined to get justice. And so begins an unusual odyssey to the nearest police station.
The Indonesian Sierra Nevada
Mouly Surya decided to set her third film on Sumba Island, in the east of the Indonesian archipelago. This island has the special feature of being semi-arid, which earns it the occasional nickname of "Little Texas", referring to the mythical American desert in which the great western classics were filmed.
Mouly Surya drew on the island's culture to create the film’s universe: the headless ghost of the bandits’ leader symbolises the wandering fate of those who violently, a belief from "marapu", the animist religion practised on Sumba.
An Indonesian western: This is what Mouly Surya achieved. With its wide shots a la Sergio Leone and its soundtrack a la Ennio Morricone, Marlina is part of the spaghetti western tradition.
In and of itself, the offbeat universe is also reminiscent of Tarantino. Marlina, a flamboyant heroine with a vengeful air, could be straight out of Kill Bill.
And of course it is impossible to discuss the film without mentioning the Japanese director Kurosawa and his ken geki or sword films. This cocktail of influences works, as demonstrated by the film's participation in the Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight in 2017, the year of its release.
Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (“Marlina la tueuse en quatre actes”, 2017) was supported by the Aide aux cinémas du monde fund in 2016.
This Institut français programme provides support to foreign film-makers for film projects co-produced with France, whether they be feature-length fiction, animated films or creative documentaries.