Everything You Always Wanted to Happen in the Bumi Manusia Film

Everything You Always Wanted to Happen in the Bumi Manusia Film* (*but Were Afraid to Ask)

BY : MIKAEL JOHANI

AUGUST 09, 2019, JAKARTA GLOBE

The wait is, finally, almost over. The film adaptation of Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s classic novel “Bumi Manusia,” or This Earth of Mankind, gets its red carpet première in Surabaya today.

The choice of the première location was dictated by the fact that most of the novel is set in Wonokromo on the outskirts of the East Java capital in the late 19th century.

The novel is the legendary leftist author’s ambitious project to trace the birth of nationalism in Indonesia. It’s also a real page-turner featuring a tragic love story between the protagonist Minke – a fictionalized version of Tirto Adhi Soerjo, the “father of Indonesian journalism” – and his beautiful half-Dutch, half-Javanese wife Annelies.

Indonesians have been waiting for the novel to be adapted into film for years. Before Falcon Pictures and Hanung Bramantyo, a commercial director best known for adapting the Muslim romance novel “Ayat-Ayat Cinta” (Verses of Love), stepped in to end the wait, we’ve had to make do with two stage adaptations of the story: “Nyai Ontosoroh” (based on the character of the matriarch and Minke’s mentor of the same name) directed [written and produced by not directed – ML] by Faiza Mardzoeki and “Bunga Penutup Abad” (Last Flower of the Century) by Wawan Sofwan, based on Annelies’ tragic story.

To give a comparison, Bumi Manusia is to Indonesians what J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” is to fantasy fans. No wonder that public excitement for the film version, ever since it was announced last year, has been tempered with trepidation that it may not hit all the right buttons with Pram’s die-hard fans.

And there’s no Pram’s fan more die-hard than Max Lane, the translator of the “Buru Quartet” novels, of which Bumi Manusia is the first installment. We asked Lane what he would like to see in Hanung’s adaptation (and what he fears might actually happen) and also what effects he would like the film to have on Indonesian society.

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