Film: Soegija

Soegija is a 2012 Indonesian film directed by the noted director Garin Nugroho, who had done 1998’s Cannes entrée Daun di Atas Bantal. Set in Semarang, Central Java throughout the 1940s, the film aims to present the revolutionary-era exploits of Albertus Soegijapranata, the first native Indonesian bishop and a national hero.

Or so it seems at first. In practice, the film opts to instead focus on fictional(ised) personas representing the historical and very much human struggles that brought Indonesia from an oppressed past, with Mgr Soegija himself, instead of being portrayed as a big hero for many, instead guards and watches over the little heroes of everyday life that in the end defined the nation and his own ideals, making for perhaps one of the great Indonesian National Revolution films alongside the likes of Janur Kuning and Serangan Fajar, albeit in a very different way.

The film provides examples of:

  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Many Republican militia, particularly one young farmer.
  • Bloodless Carnage: For most parts, Soegija is definitely none too bold on explicit violence.
  • The Comically Serious: The man himself, without failing once.
  • Cultured Warrior: The unnamed Japanese officer who speaks the Indonesian language, “asks” the church violinists to play Bengawan Solo at the local Japanese base daily and is implied to have gotten to where he is due to his fascination with Indonesia.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Subverted.
  • Funny Background Event: All the time.
  • Good Shepherd: Soegija. The movie’s entire point, in fact.
  • Heroic BSOD: Mariyem upon eventually finding her husband dead.
  • The Hero's Journey: A few, actually.
  • Hospital Hottie: The very clueless Hendrick sees Mariyem as one.
  • Man Child: Hendrick, an annoyingly apolitical Dutch reporter who follows around Mariyem throughout the film, oblivious toward her missing husband and only realising the full implications of the events around him toward the end.
  • Missing Mom: Ling Ling’s mother is driven off on a Japanese lorry with a number of anguished women early in the film, presumably to be a jugun ianfu. They are reunited later.
  • Not So Different: The Republican, Japanese and Dutch armies are all made up of weary, scarred youth and family men quite clueless about the whole affair and missing home badly.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: The Japanese and the Dutch… have their moments. Even the Republicans shoot up a Japanese camp unprovoked while trying to get to their armoury and are otherwise less than squeaky-clean.
  • Retirony: The Japanese officer is shot while trying to rein a post-war standoff with the Republicans, and Robert is killed on his last night on the front, while reading a letter from home for more irony.
  • Rousseau Was Right: While all sides do heinous things, they still are made up of very human faces – and in the end, love and peace always win. Notably, the story lacks an actual antagonist.
    ”In this hospital, we are all the patients.”
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: War is utter hell. Doesn’t mean we can’t have fun and be decent human beings in the meantime, though.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Robert.
  • Villainous BSOD: Arguably Robert after finding a baby behind a villager he shoots, though he does try to cover up afterwards.
  • War Is Hell: And no one is safe.