SOUL SEARCHING – Indonesian actress Mentari De Marelle returns as DAMAN Darling and chats with Joezer Mandagi about her films and journey of self-discovery
Not all who wander are lost. This line from a poem in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” definitely fits Mentari De Marelle’s current story. I first met the young actress near the end of 2016, and found her to be a bubbly and optimistic starlet on the cusp of greatness. Today, she’s still bubbly and sunny, but there’s a more genuine maturity underlying her outgoing personality. Turns out, De Marelle has spent the past couple of years or so on what you might call a journey of self-discovery. A bit of soul searching, if you will. One thing’s for sure, however: She might have been wandering, but she is definitely not lost.
But perhaps a short recap is in order before we continue. Mentari De Marelle broke into the acting scene with a major role in “Yasmine,” a Brunei-produced coming-of-age film centered around pencak silat. She then showed her love for drama by playing the lead in 2015’s “LDR,” which was famously shot in Verona, along with its sequel “Where is My Romeo.” Our first interview then ended with a discussion about her latest movie project at the time, “Blusukan Jakarta,” which dealt with the harsh realities of life in Jakarta’s notorious slums and was actually shot in one. It was quite a physically-challenging role and she commented that she wouldn’t be doing any more action flicks. “I’m not that durable,” she said.
Fast forward to 2018. When asked what her most memorable project was in the intervening years, De Marelle pointed out “Merah Putih Memanggil.” An action flick. “We spent almost three months in the jungle, with only one set of clothes for the whole continuity,” she recalls. “And I was the only girl. The others were soldiers, members of Kopassus [the Indonesian Army’s premier special forces group] and other male actors.” It turns out she was quite durable after all.
So, we have this beautiful, youthful and lively actress with a love for romantic drama … who quite often ends up in movies that are physically demanding, filled with military action or heavy with social commentary. And all this came together in her latest big screen adventure, “Siap Gan!” The movie tells the story of a commercial sex worker who, in an attempt to flee from public order officers, finds herself in the training center for a Paskibraka team. For those unfamiliar with the team, Paskibraka is an Indonesian acronym for the National Flag Hoisting Team—a very prestigious and rigorous youth organization. There, the main character meets a veteran, discovers the spirit of nationalism and becomes a better person. Pretty standard stuff, with plenty of things that Indonesian moviegoers can always appreciate or relate to—comedy, war veterans and marching in precision.
“The film industry partnered up with the West Java Paskibraka,” De Marelle says of her time filming, “and we got to meet actual Paskibraka kids.” She described her experience as a live-in. “They’ve been training for years and we only had a few weeks to match continues, “but that was exciting.” More importantly, she was also conscious of how “Siap Gan!” had the potential to educate. “From this movie we can learn not to judge people based on their line of work,” she elaborates. “The main character is a commercial sex worker, but she was essentially forced into it.” For all the laughs the movie provided, it was still a strong message that skirted an issue still considered taboo. “This movie is quite daring to delve into that issue and combine it with personal accomplishment, Paskibraka and nationalism,” she concludes.
As it happens, courage is also something De Marelle has rediscovered in herself. “Several years ago, when I was younger, I didn’t have the courage to take charge and say, ‘No, I want to do this and I want to do it like this,’”
she begins. “Now, as I’ve grown older, I’ve found the courage to say that I want to do this, this and this, and I want to head here, here and here. I’ve also started discovering the image I want to portray—the correct image of me.”
“I mean, who wasn’t a bit unstable in their teenage years?” De Marelle went on. “I think, even though I’m still very, very young and even though I’m still sometimes a bit of a know-it-all, I have more experience now. So, I’ve become confident enough to say that I am surer of who I want to be in the future. I’m no longer confused about what I want to do.” At the risk of sounding pretentious and patronizing, I would say that that is exactly what a mature artist would say— an artist who went searching and came back stronger than ever.
Photography Zaky Akbar
Styling Paul Dela Merced
Grooming Morin Iwashita
Grooming Assistant Yulia Santika
Accessories (on the table) Aidan And Ice, available on masarishop.com
Location Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta, Jl. Gatot Subroto Kav. 18, Jakarta; +62 21 2277 1888; fourseasons.com/jakarta
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