Review: Four perspectives on Hanung Bramantyo’s Kartini


Reviewing a story behind and themes in Hanung Bramantyo’s Kartini


Following a Melbourne screening of Hanung Bramantyo’s new film Kartini in May 2017, a University of Melbourne’s Indonesia Forum organized a conference on a thesis ‘The film Kartini and Kartini as a source of chronological and contemporary impulse in Indonesia’.  Four speakers were invited to benefaction their responses formed on their sold areas of research. Here they quickly re-present their takes on executive Hanung’s latest cinematic interpretation of Indonesia’s iconic womanlike inhabitant hero.




The Kartini film’s description of Javanese culture

Helen Pausacker

Caged perkutut birds (known as ‘zebra doves’ or ‘turtle doves’) yield a subject in a film, Kartini. Javanese nobleness kept these rarely cherished birds, that were appreciated both for their beauty and also for their song. The perkutut can be seen as a embellishment for a ‘caged’ noblewomen.

The film portrays a congenital and rarely stratified inlet of Javanese enlightenment in a late nineteenth century. Although a chosen had power, this energy was mostly in a hands of group and a film demonstrates a series of etiquette and traditions that oppressed women. In doing so, a film remained pretty true to Kartini’s diaries.

The initial of these rough etiquette was pingitan, a tradition of secluding women after their initial menstruation, until they were married. While some chosen Javanese women perceived primary education, this would stop on pingitan. Kartini was from a some-more ‘progressive’ family than many during a time and was authorised to continue her preparation with a private teacher, until she and her sisters were eventually expelled from pingitan.

The second tradition portrayed in a film was that of organised marriages. The early twentieth century led to a direct for adore matches around a archipelago of a Dutch East Indies. This became a renouned thesis of literature, one instance being Sitti Nurbaya by Marah Rusli (1922). Kartini was, during slightest technically, accessible to reject a matrimony offer done to her, nonetheless she gifted complicated family vigour and felt a clever clarity of obligation.

The third rough establishment portrayed was polygamy, a film depicting a good disproportion in standing between mom series one (the Raden Ayu) and a others. The film also showed that while this essentially oppressed women, group also gifted a weight of governmental expectation, despite reduction than women. Kartini’s father, for example, had initial married Kartini’s birth mom though was pressured into marrying a lady with a aloft standing as his Raden Ayu, when he rose in rank.

The hierarchy of both category and age in Javanese multitude during a time is also demonstrated in a film by laku dhodhok (squatting walk) and sembah (raising hands in front of face in a prayer-like gesture), both of that denote honour for a superior. By interspersing Javanese with Indonesian in a film, a film was also means to denote a hierarchical relationships, even between siblings, with High Javanese being oral to comparison people or those of aloft status. The film also shows how Kartini rebelled opposite this in her relations with her possess younger siblings.

Some aspects of a film, however, seemed some-more suitable to a complicated sinetron (soapie) than a late nineteenth to /early twentieth century court. There seemed to be an extreme volume of shrill sobbing. It was also tough to suppose even on-going noblewomen climbing adult and sitting on a wall, or frolicking in a ocean. Ending a film with Kartini usurpation her destiny husband’s matrimony proposal, rather than with her genocide in birth in a polygamous marriage, seemed an try to emanate an imaginary ‘happy ending’. In balance, however, a film was successful in recreating a suggestion of a times.


Film still. (Legacy Pictures)


Notes from Kartini

Dina Afrianty 

Kartini’s messages are still of aptitude for contemporary women’s activism in Indonesia today. Indonesian women are still struggling for equal event in education, fighting opposite a use of child matrimony and defining their purpose and standing both in private and open spaces. They are still severe congenital and feudalistic traditions mostly subsequent from regressive and approved interpretations of sacrament –, in this case, Islam, a sacrament of a infancy of Indonesians. 

Hanung Bramantyo’s film depicts Kartini’s impulse for fighting for equivalence as mostly imagining from her communication with her hermit who complicated in a Netherlands, and her tie with her father’s Dutch friends, who non-stop adult for her an event to bond and promulgate with Dutch friends of her own. Like Kartini, Indonesia’s women’s activism has always been desirous by a tellurian women’s movements. 

The film shows us that detached from her bearing to western culture, Kartini schooled that Islamic teachings do not distinguish opposite women, as group and women are equally compulsory to acquire knowledge. Born into a Muslim family, as a child she rebelled and refused to take partial in Qur’an classes. It was usually after that she supposed that group and women have a same rights to education. The film shows her training from a visiting kyai that both boys and girls are compulsory to review a Qur’an and importantly, about a need for all Muslims to know a genuine message.

Kartini was endangered that a teachings in a Qur’an could not be truly supposed by all Muslims, since it was accessible usually in Arabic. The prerequisite of a interpretation in sequence to widespread larger bargain of a Qur’an has continued to be an critical thesis in Indonesia’s women’s activism. Following a trail of Islamic feminism in many Muslim societies, Indonesian feminists both physical and eremite trust that one approach of severe congenital tradition is by compelling a need for rereading and reinterpreting a Qur’an. 

Polygamy is a subject of sold significance in Indonesian women’s onslaught for probity and equality. For feminist and women’s rights activists a story of Kartini’s requirement to follow her parents’ ask that she marry a masculine who already had 3 wives, is used in this film and elsewhere to enthuse women to quarrel opposite polygamy; to know that polygamy is bad for women and that it is zero some-more than an aged tradition. Moderate Muslim scholars and women’s activists have challenged a approach a verses of a Qur’an are used to transparent polygamy.  

In new years, however, with a arise of eremite conservatism we see this story being used for a opposite purpose. The story of Kartini as a fourth mom and a daughter of a polygamous father is used by conservatives to transparent and foster polygamy. Even Kartini, who was intelligent and eccentric and fought for emancipation, they argue, finished adult vital in a polygamous marriage. Conservatives have used a story of Kartini to criticize a feminist onslaught and women’s activism. They explain that Kartini was a model divine Muslim lady since she followed a trail of Prophet’s Muhammad’s wives who supposed vital in a polygamous marriage. 


Film still. (Legacy Pictures)


The construction of masculinity and femininity in Kartini

Hani Yulindrasari

Hanung Bramantyo’s film depicts a normal chronicle of masculinity and femininity of a priyayi (Javanese aristocratic) class, with rituals and manners about how to speak, act and correlate with others according to category and gender. However, executive Hanung has also successfully portrayed a complexities of masculinity and femininity within this class, between a ideal and what is practiced.

The film starts with Kartini behaving a pivotal component of priyayi femininity, imprinting her acquiescence and tractability to a energy of her Romo (father). She hunker walks (laku ndhodhok) towards him and sits on a building while her Romo sits on a chair. She keeps her conduct down and does not dauntless to demeanour into her Romo’s eyes while talking. The normal priyayi construction of gender places a leverage of energy in a hands of a widespread male. Daughters, sons, and wives contingency contention to a father’s will. A daughter also has to heed a mom and her brothers. 

In a march of a film, however, Hanung Bramantyo shows us how Kartini hurdles this imposed form of femininity to sequence a freer and ‘masculine’ form. Hanung shows how Kartini sits cross-legged (duduk bersila) – a normal Javanese men’s approach of sitting – climbs a ladder, and laughs out loud. This is male-type behaviour, giveaway of a constraints traditionally imposed on priyayi women. Kartini also subtly negotiates and hurdles a tradition of pingitan (seclusion), including by her writings, eventually convincing her father to concede her and her sisters to emerge out of their privacy and into a outward world. 

Kartini is also shown to be wakeful that a restrictions imposed on her describe not usually to her gender though also to her class. When she says, ‘I wish to be common people’, she not usually implies an egalitarian value though also her recognition of a enigma of category and gender in a hardship of women.  

Hanung portrays hegemonic masculinity as a informative product that boundary men, as good as women. A deferential masculine has to follow a normative ideal and is pressured to heed to this hegemonic construction. It becomes transparent when a Romo asks Kartini’s sister Kardinah to accept a matrimony offer and admits, ‘I have betrothed him (the husband-to-be), and a deferential masculine has to keep his promises.’. Throughout a film he is shown carrying to make – reluctantly – polygamy by marrying his eminent mom to safety energy in his family line. The film also shows how her brothers, firstly Kartono though in a finish also her oldest brother, Busono, come to honour Kartini’s views and give adult their masculine power.  Even her husband-to-be, while remaining polygamous, during slightest comes to accept Kartini’s list of conditions.

Whilst entrance to preparation and mercantile and domestic resources is comparatively improved now than in Kartini’s time, her knowledge is not dramatically opposite from women’s contemporary knowledge in Indonesia. There are still widespread ideals of femininity and masculinity hold by opposite amicable groups, that women and group are pressured to contention to. At a same time, new constructions of femininity raised women as strong, educated, absolute and successful, both in family and career, move new pressures to contemporary Indonesian women. Like Kartini, women in Indonesia are continualously struggleing to grasp their aspirations and dreams, in traffic with a final of ideal femininity. Like Kartini’s father and comparison brothers, Indonesian group also need to plea and negotiate a thought of hegemonic masculinity in office of gender equality.


Film still. (Legacy Pictures)


Seeing Hanung Bramantyo’s ‘Kartini’ in a light of a chronological sources

Joost Coté

Hanung Bramantyo’s film, Kartini provides a uninformed demeanour during this critical chronological figure in Indonesian history. It provides contemporary audiences with a plausible discernment into how any member of this Javanese priyayi family responded to a hurdles that Kartini introduced. Central to Hanung’s supportive interpretation is a emanate also executive in Kartini’s correspondence: polygamy, and a tradition-defined destiny afterwards accessible to women of her class, that Kartini challenged. This dramatically refocuses a required importance on her organisation with education, that is usually quickly and in terms of chronological chronology, incorrectly, referred to in a film.

Director Hanung has to be congratulated for a approach he has bravely cut a trail by a prolonged tradition of ‘Kartini interpretations’ as good as a many chronological issues embedded in a strange Kartini correspondence, in sequence to benefaction a awake and enchanting story. It is therefore value quickly indicating what a executive motionless to highlight, what he chose to omit and what, we would try to say, is historically dubious in a film.

Among a chronological ‘facts’ highlighted in a film was a importance given to Kartini’s work with a Jepara woodcraftsman, that might good have been shabby by a director’s revisit to Rumah Kartini. This is a tiny rope of enthusiasts in Jepara now revitalising internal Kartini-era timber figure and batik crafts. As a film shows, it was Kartini’s purpose as surrogate between craftsman and European qualification enthusiasts that contributed to bringing Kartini to European attention. Equally interesting, is a courtesy given to a announcement of Kartini’s vital ethnographic essay – and hints concerning her other publications.  

Another less-often discussed, though here highlighted, chronological aspect is a responses of her brothers, Sosrokartono and Busono, and her comparison sister Sulastri. The latter dual are ‘traditionalists’ who eventually come to accept Kartini’s on-going views. Kartono, however, while an critical change and presumably also mentor, was not a one who introduced Kartini to Dutch feminist literature. That came from a mom of a internal Dutch colonial official, accurately tangible in a film as a feminist and author, and after also around other European feminist correspondents. 

In this context it is value observant a film’s description of Europeans. Generally a film presents them in a certain light though in a box of a dual domestic figures, a revolutionary parliamentarian Henry outpost Kol and a colonial executive of education, Jacques Abendanon, their critical purpose in ancillary her investigate skeleton are understated. The description of ‘Oom Piet’, a aged colonial proprietor of Semarang, some-more clearly reflects Kartini opinion: while he was tender by her abilities, he was also ‘a bit creepy’. He is on record as strictly refusing to support her skeleton to investigate in a Netherlands. 

There is also no chronological justification that Kartini privately spoke to a Kyai in a terms portrayed in a film: what is transparent from her correspondence, however is that Kartini did come to determine herself with a modernising Islam after revolting opposite her normal Islamic preparation as a child. 

Given how a executive shapes a film to work toward a consummate – Kartini’s betrothal to a polygamous widower – a importance a film gives to a set of conditions Kartini sets down before similar to a marriage, with a capitulation of her father, is an critical one. This is (almost) as reported in a correspondence, solely that a film chronicle does not embody a condition that she would be authorised to continue studying. What a executive consciously omits (because it would murky a ideal account perhaps?) is a final year of Kartini’s life and her comfortless death.

This chronological nitpicking, however, should not detract from delight of this glorious square of cinema, that hopefully will inspire viewers to modernise their appreciation of this dauntless and moving woman.



Hanung Bramantyo, Kartini. Legacy Pictures, 2017.



Helen Pausacker ( is Deputy Director of a Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society during a University of Melbourne. She is co-editor (with Tim Lindsey) of Religion, Law and Intolerance in Indonesia (Routledge, 2016).

Dina Afrianty ( is a postdoctoral investigate associate during a Institute for Religion, Politics, and Society (IRPS) during a Australian Catholic University. She is a author of Women and Sharia Law in Indonesia: Local Women’s NGOs and a remodel of Islamic Law in Aceh (Routledge, 2015).

Hani Yulindrasari ( is a PhD claimant during a University of Melbourne. She is researching masculinities in Indonesian early childhood education. 

Joost Coté ( is a comparison investigate associate during SOPHIS, Monash University. He has published several edited and annotated volumes of his English translations of a letters of Kartini and her sisters, including Kartini, The Complete Writings 1898-1904 (Monash University Publishing, 2014) and Realising a Dream of RA Kartini: Her Sisters’ Letters from Colonial Java (Ohio University Press, 2008).


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