Memories of My Body ★★★

Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku, via the eyes of its visionary director, Garin Nugroho, conjures up imageries of such mystical splendour and intrigue that it is easy to forgive, but not forget, its bland portrayal of an otherwise deeply complex character journey.

Juno, a young village boy who learned from an early age that one's body can bring forth catastrophic consequences if not controlled well, had to leave his village as an orphan after both his parents left him. Thus begins Juno's journey to come to accept and love his own body, something he never really struggled to do from the beginning.

Even though Juno's trauma was established very early on and there were some rather intriguing monologue by present day Juno that foreshadow the conflicts his body would someday bring him, Juno never seemed to be affected by this trauma, except in one scene close to the end of the movie where he cursed all of the bloodshed that was happening in his life; but by that point this scene had served instead as a climax that no one was expecting nor waiting for.

Juno's character is passive, drifting from one episode in life to another, falling in love and occasionally despising the things in between, though never himself. That is precisely the issue of the movie; that Juno never has an issue with his own body, only with others / the circumstances around him. The conflict becomes fate, not character, an easy Deus ex Machina in any films, however beautiful the presentation.

Kucumbu may be a beautiful poem, but any beautiful poems, however richly composed and impeccable in their wordings, are lost without context. Kucumbu lost me when it sacrificed the journey of its character for the sake of artistic splendour.

With all that said, I believe that the movie deserves most of the credits for its rich depiction of Javanese tradition that are seldom captured on celluloid, its haunting and highly immersive sound design, and also Garin's courage in leaving some things open to interpretation, which makes it worthy of a second visit. Hopefully that will be a more eventful one for me.