Autobiography. Makbul Mubarak’s film review

Autobiography, by Makbul Mubarak

The first feature by the Indonesian director stems from a feeling of social revenge that pervades the entire film, capable of transforming even for a moment a good person into a monster. Horizons

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Autobiography by Indonesian director Makbul Mubarak, premiered in the section Horizons of the Venice Film Festival, tells the story of a perverse relationship between two opposing yet strangely specular individuals. The young Rakib remained the sole keeper of an uninhabited villa belonging to Purna, a retired former general, with whose family the Rakib clan has served for centuries; from father to son. When Purna returns home and begins the campaign to be elected mayor, Rakib binds himself to the man, who has become a mentor and father figure for him and finds his vocation by being his assistant, in work and in life. An act of vandalism during the election campaign triggers an escalation of violence destined to disrupt the life of the young Rakib.

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Mubarak starts from the memories of his childhood spent at the end of the dictatorship in Indonesia (1965-1998) to outline a distressing story that confuses the public but above all the protagonist, confused and completely at the mercy of his tormentor. The young man finds in Purna a respected and feared father figure in the village, unlike his incarcerated natural father. On the other hand, it is all too easy for a charismatic and educated man to outwit a simple country boy like Rakib. In the end, it is a question of the influence that a certain type of populist politics has always had on the underclass. And this is precisely how Purna is making its way into the small village, with false promises and illusions of who knows what comforts and riches. Rakib is completely enraptured by it, until an act of unprecedented violence shakes him and wakes him from the spell; from this moment on, the film totally changes its atmosphere, taking on that of a psychological thriller. The room follows the uncertain pace of the young protagonist in dark and apparently hostile environments, while the soundtrack underlines every sudden movement of the general. The climax of the tension is reached when the man insists on personally soaping Rakib in the shower, a gruesome scene in his simplicity.

The boy finally sees the man for what he is, a false and morally corrupt psychopath; but how to break a chain of violence and injustice as long as the history of one’s own ancestry? The director decides to investigate a very difficult period in the history of his country, in which powerful and corrupt characters dominated the poor people while remaining almost untouchable by the law. The two characters represent different generations and different social classes of the same country that the director wanted to compare to create an ideal clash. The bold choice Rakib will make is not just civil disobedience, but liberation from decades of oppression suffered by his family and his people. Makbul Mubarak’s debut feature stems from a clear feeling of social revenge that pervades the entire film, capable of transforming even for a moment a good person into a monster.

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Autobiography. Makbul Mubarak’s film review