Sunday, August 9, 2015

Nota [2015]

Director: Yasu Tanaka
Writer: Yasu Tanaka
Starring: Maya Karin, Hans Isaac, Ramli Hasan, Rin Izumi
Genre: Psychological thriller
Rating: General
Verdict: "Like watching sentient playing pieces on a board game, intimate and sprawling..."

Though still at the prime of their lives, Erin (Maya Karin) and Kamal (Hans Isaac) have failed all attempts to conceive, and it gets harder for them to cope with the fact with every passing year. Fearing that their days are finally numbered, Erin hopes to rekindle their relationship and manages to coax Kamal into going on a trip to Bako National Park, where Kamal proposed to her ten years ago. Will she succeed, or is it too late?

What to Expect
1. Atmospheric
2. A focused and scaled-down film
3. Gorgeous cinematography
4. The feel of Japanese cinema
5. Also feels somewhat dragged out
6. Shoehorned LPF-mandated ending

What NOT to Expect
1. A convoluted plot
2. Insecurity
If there's nothing better to see...
Nota is unmistakably Japanese with Malaysian make-up, if ya know what I mean. If you don't and wish to come at me with some, "What do you mean by 'a very Japanese film'?" I'm just gonna tell you to grow some goddamn culture, heathen!

But in any case, does that make Nota good or bad? Well, it's not as simple as that. There are some admirable things about the film, but after it's all over, the best reaction it can ever hope to get out of you is one of these:

... because, on one hand, it's pretty tricky to 'get' what Nota tries to impart. It has no pretensions over what it is; it's not overwritten or overthought; it doesn't try to outsmart you; and most of all, it's not insecure about the fact that it's not blockbuster or 'hipster-indie film' or 'mind-blowing' material. But on the other hand, I daresay that's the whole point: it really is just a movie. They have a story to tell but they'll do it at their own terms (and time).

Some things you're supposed to just accept; for instance, the characters are fully-formed and single-minded, like sentient playing pieces on a board game. Plot points (and turning points) are few and far in between, and whenever our protagonist Erin roll the dice, she gets nothing more than three with each throw - and the final square is almost two hours away.

Not to say that it isn't an interesting board game to watch. Just that you can't shake the feeling that they could have said what they wanted to say in much less time. Instead, you get questionable plot points and an even more questionable character that comes in the form of Jemat (Ramli Hassan), with plenty of set-ups but very few payoffs.

There is a saving grace, however; the film is an absolute beauty and most of the scenes feel very... zen, if that makes any sense. I imagine that in less capable hands, the film would feel very touristy and heavy-handed, so kudos to Mr. Writer-and-Director. And speaking of heavy-handed, whatever hope you may hold that Nota will go out with a bang, sorry to disappoint you. There's no need to tell you when, you'll just get the sense that LPF had a hand in cornering them into opting for an ending that most of us have become so blasé about.

So to sum it up, Nota is a daring attempt at making something rather far removed from what Malaysian audiences in general are used to seeing (or expect) - which makes it a breath of fresh air, though thanks to the film's trying pace, you'd also suffocate on it.

1 comment:

Bea said...

Thanks for review!!

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