Categories Film Review

Review, Bumi Manusia (2019)

Bumi Manusia (This Earth of Mankind) or also known as Tetralogy Buru (Buru Quartet) from Pramoedya Ananta Toer is dubbed as one of the most important literary works in Indonesia. The book was written during Pram’s exile in Buru Island and tell about the oppression of Dutch Government in Indonesia during the time of colonialism.

The book is deemed to be vocal and provoking, even years after Indonesia’s independence especially during the regime of New Order, the government banned the book nationwide. After the New Order falls, Bumi Manusia found its way back to the homeland.

Since then several attempts were made to adapt the book into a movie, the news sparked out, peoples got excited, but the productions process always fell through until Falcon Pictures takes the challenge. Falcon Pictures is known for its box office succesful production in comedies and also popular romance. Their movies have always been succes in marketing and number of sales, although most of the movies are critically poor. Their movies ususally goofy, lame, and boring.

Despite all the critics due to the studio’s brand image, the production keep running. The seat of the director fall to the experienced director, Hanung Bramantyo (Jomblo, Ayat-Ayat Cinta, Kartini), and the main lead fall to Iqbaal Ramadhan (Dilan 1990, Dilan 1991).

Although Bumi Manusia is a serious historical story, the movie version of Bumi Manusia is appealing to the modern and mainstream audieces. The main narrative of the movie is taken into a period love story during the Dutch colonialization with fresh and visually pleasing actors.

The story tells about Minke (Iqbaal Ramadhan) as a native nobleman who study in H.B.S (a Dutch Institute) which mostly filled by the Dutch, European, and Dutch-Indies people. Minke admires the thought and the modernity of European, he also mingles with Dutch-Indies people (Half Dutch and Half Indonesia) that lead him to meet Annelies Mellema (Mawar Eva de Jongh), a Dutch-Indies maiden.

Soon the romance bloom between the two, then Minke develop admiration towards the progressive thoughts of Nyai Ontosoroh (Sha Ine Febriyanti), the mistress of a Dutch businessman named Herman Mellema (Peter Sterk) and also the mother of Annelies.

Trailer from Falcon Pictures

After romance introduction and racism sparks between the Dutch-Indies and the natives, the story lead into several tragedies that started with the dies of Herman Mellema due to poisoning. The family has to go into several trials for the court to find the killer. The movie also put the cruel reality of colonalism and the normative conflicts between Western norms and local norms.

The trials also happen again soon to undermine the rights of native people, inheritance, and custody rights. This time the conflict building feels repetitive. The conflicts want to bring out the determination of a mother and also the courage and brilliance from Minke, but their capability is far adrift from each other.

Minke who already become part of Nyai Ontosoroh’s family can not contribute alot in problem solving. The book version of Minke who is very brave and brilliant with his writing doesn’t show in the movie. He is overshadowed by the presence and the acting quality of Nyai Ontosoroh.

Minke also lack of presence, lack of rage, lack of maturity, and lack of brilliance. Even though Minke is the main character of this whole story. Iqbal failed to bring Minke, he looks like a Javanese version of Dilan who happens to speak Dutch. You can imagine it. That makes Sha Ine Febriyanti as Nyai Ontosoroh single-handedly saves the acting department from the doom.

As how the story is adapted into an appealing period love drama, all these conflicts are created as subplots that support the three hours of romance. The movie also lack of grandoisity for a serious historical story, while the costume design is really impresive but the world building seems lacking.

In conclusion, the movie version of Bumi Manusia choose to lean more into a romance narration instead of the concept of equality and highlighting the tragedy of humanity. Despite its mainstream and appealing main plot, the movie still faithful into the original source.

Hanung’s Bumi Manusia is not a bad movie, the story is still well-written and the conflict and tension are well-built, although there are several lacks but still okay. It is enjoyable, fun, and also blue. It is also able to deliver its most explicit message and bring awareness about literary world and the works of Pramudya Ananta Toer to the wider and younger audiences.


Our Score (7/10)


Title                       : Bumi Manusia
Production            : Falcon Pictures
Director                : Hanung Bramantyo
Original Story      : Novel (Bumi Manusia by Pramoedya Ananta Toer)
Screenwriter         : Salman Aristo
Casts                     : Iqbaal Ramadhan, Mawar Eva de Jongh, Sha Ine Febriyanti, Jerome Kurnia



Putu Radar Bahurekso
t : @puturadar | ig : putu.radar


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Editor-in-Chief of
Film critics, and pop-culture columnist.
A bachelor in International Relations, and Master's in Public Policy.
Working as a Consultant for Communications and Public Affairs.


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1 month ago

Your point of view caught my eye and was very interesting. Thanks. I have a question for you.

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