Opera Jawa Review

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A reworking of the Sanskrit Ramayana epic that finds a former dancer falling for the charms of a rich butcher.

★★★★

It’s frustrating to watch Indonesian director Garin Nugroho’s gamelan musical and know that you’re only understanding a fraction of the meticulous performance and exquisite symbolism that’s illuminating the screen. But there’s so much to marvel at in this reworking of a myth from the Sanskrit Ramayana epic that missing the nuances becomes only a passing regret.

Nugroho has packed the action with examples of Indonesian art, from the conceptual décor and props to traditional Javanese shadow puppets. The stylisation provides the perfect backdrop for the erotic story of a former dancer who is tempted by the passion of a bigwig butcher when her potter husband falls on hard times.

Stunningly beautiful, it's a shame we can only understand a fraction of what's going on.