Navigating Life’s Waters in ‘Perahu Kertas’
Get ready for another adaptation. “Perahu Kertas” (“Paper Boat”), Dewi “Dee” Lestari’s best-selling novel, is now a motion picture set to hit local theaters on Thursday. The author wrote the script, and director Hanung Bramantyo helmed its translation to the big screen.
The movie, a joint production of Starvision, Bentang Pictures and Dapur Film, stars young actors Maudy Ayunda as Kugy and Adipati Dolken as Keenan. The film is the first of a two-part adaptation.
In this first installment, we meet Kugy and Keenan, best friends from their university years in Bandung. They are fond of each other but hide their feelings. They have their own dreams to pursue: Kugy wants to be a writer, Keenan a painter.
The two artistic souls are quietly drawn to one another, but their friends Noni (Sylvia Fully) and her boyfriend, Eko (Fauzan Smith), are completely oblivious to their mutual attraction, mainly because Kugy already has a boyfriend, Ojos (Dion Wiyoko), back in Jakarta.
When Noni sets Keenan up with Wanda (Kimberly Ryder), a stunning, English-speaking girl from a rich family, Kugy begins to withdraw from the group. Wanda is an occasional curator for her parents’ art gallery, and she tries to promote Keenan’s work out of genuine attraction to the young artist. To clear her mind, Kugy involves herself in a time-consuming project that keeps her away not only from her close friends but from Ojos as well.
Meanwhile, Keenan faces his own problems at home. His parents are not fond of his painting, yet Keenan feels it is the path he must choose. He travels to Ubud in Bali to study painting with his mother’s acquaintance, Pak Wayan (Tio Pakusadewo). Things are falling apart for Kugy, Keenan, Noni and Eko, and it will be some time before they meet one another again.
Even though there have been countless movies in this genre, “Perahu Kertas” is an unusual romantic teen flick offering one conflict after another.
With the script, Dee stays true to the novel she wrote back in 1996. Maudy and Adipati play the central roles in the story, making their performances crucial to how the audience will ultimately feel about the production.
For director Hanung, this is his fourth film adapted from a popular novel. Previously, Hanung worked on “Jomblo,” “Ayat-Ayat Cinta” (“Verses of Love”) and “Perempuan Berkalung Sorban” (“The Girl With the Keffiyeh Around Her Neck”). During a press conference after a press screening in Jakarta on Wednesday, Hanung said that when producer Chand Parwez Servia proposed the project, he was not interested in doing another adaptation.
“To do an adaptation means you can’t give a twist to the story, and people see the movie only to prove if it’s up to their expectations,” Hanung said, adding that he eventually changed his mind.
“The presence of the book’s author in this film is very important, and I let Dee choose which scene stayed and which one should be taken out.”
As both author and screenwriter, Dee said “Perahu Kertas” the movie should be evaluated independently from the book. Dee admitted comparisons were inevitable, but said the movie offers a balanced mix of funny and heartfelt moments.
“I was the one who insisted that Maudy should play Kugy, mainly because she can sing,” said Dee, who also wrote the original soundtrack for the movie.
The decision to divide the story into two installments was made to include as much of the original story as possible, Chand said. They took almost 40 days to shoot all the scenes and ended up with five hours of story.
“The second film will offer more conflict than the first, which I hope will be even more appealing to the audience,” he said.
Hanung said he gave Dee all the creative control she wanted. The furthest he went, he said, was when he experimented with swapping roles among the cast before the shoot.
The director interprets the paper boat motif as a symbol of the feelings of every character in the story.
“It’s a feeling of being prone to sinking and insisting on staying above the water,” he said.