Negeri 5 Menara: a movie review

One afternoon we were confused to choose what movie we’d like to watch. Our choice was between Negeri 5 Menara (N5M) and Hugo. Since we didn’t really know Hugo, so our choice goes to N5M. My hubby has the novel, but we haven't read it yet. But I really curious after read some comments and responses from some people who have watched the film which makes me want to watch it. Long story short, the tickets brought us to the movie.


The cinema room was not filled for more than one quarter. Some audiences are kids with their mother or family. You can count some couples only by the left hand, me and my hubby included. It’s funny to see how a good movie (or a movie that based-on-a-novel) is not more attractive for some audiences than the pocong-kuntilanak-whatsoever movies, though it has the same price. Well, choosing what’s entertaining in a movie is indeed subjective.

 Actually, there are some good local movies from good movie makers too. But we have to admit that only few people who appreciate the existance of Indonesian good movies nowadays. Some people tend to choose a lovey-dovey or crappy movie rather than a good one. Good, I mean, a movie with a humanity touch or simply about slice of life things. A movie that can move life spirit, capture social reality or a movie that can give you a hard slap in your face.

 About this movie, I have several things to share. First, I never had a visualization about what is pesantren before—after a man who became my husband who was a santri (a person who learn and study in pesantren) gave me some clue about it. I wasn’t growing up from a family with tight religion basis where wearing a hijab is came from your parents not from your own. The choice often appears by the internalization within the family. Or just like the way our parents had the control to take over (most of) your education—just like what happened to Alif. Called me secular or whatever, but it’s true. I’ve once went to TPA (Taman Pendidikan Al Quran) when I was elementary and I never got more than that. Somehow, this movie has increased my point of view about pesantren.

 Second, I learn from Amak and Bapak (Alif’s parents) about caregiving and being parents who can let go peacefully (in Islam it called: ikhlas). Well, after being a mother, for me it’s such a hard work to be ikhlas. A story about Alif’s struggling in pesantren cannot be separated from his parent’s hard works too. There’s a scene when Alif apart from his parents and suddenly I can feel what my parents felt about me (about ten years ago). Leaving me live independently in Jogja and far away from them. Well, for me, that’s a hard work. I just still can’t imagine if I have to felt the same way to my kids. I just can’t! Not now.

 What Alif’s parents doing practically is about to prepare their son into success. The problem is, we never know the precise definition of what “success” is all about. Is it measured by the parents (our own) or by the child? Sometimes we’re really “sok tau” of knowing what’s the best for our kids. Just like Alif, at some point I feel like his parents are forced him to study in pesantren. Even they’re liberating Alif to choose but (as we know) the bargaining position of being a child is lower than being parents. =))

 Third, is about what they (santri) saw and get in pesantren. I can see how hard they study in moslem basis (with strict ways too). They’re study and living in a dormitory with strong moslem atmosphere where you have to tighten up your faith every day.  The curriculum aren’t only focus on religion basis but also global side through the English class and debate championship—which not all public nor private schools have it. And when the lights are out every 9 PM and the boys have to find a candle or another light, it surprises me. Because they had to pay double effort just to survive and gain all the dreams.

 The Pesantren Madani is a pseudonym for a very famous pesantren in East Java. Almost every moslem here know that to be a santri there you have to pass some tests and involved in a trial class for a year. And it means your learning time will be much longer than another student. In the end, I can see clearly if a santri build their life into success from their first time in the pesantren and be proud of it because what they have been through is not easy.

 Overall, the movie is quite good. I have to recommend this movie for you who missed your pesantren or maybe it can brings relieveness to recall your first love, ha-ha! Well, but just like another based-on-a-novel movies, N5M didn’t put all the scenes on the book into the frame. So you better read the book first before go to the cinema :)

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