Actress Marsha Timothy has been on the silver screen for more than a decade, but it is the title role in Mouly Surya’s “Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts” that brought her to Europe’s oldest, most prestigious film festival.
When Marsha arrived to Cannes with her husband Vino G. Bastian and daughter Jizzy Pearl for “Marlina’s” premiere at the Directors’ Fortnight section on Wednesday (24/05), she still could not believe it.
“It’s surreal. When Mouly told me, I couldn’t believe it. I know it’s not easy to have your film screened here. I’ve never even dreamed about coming to Cannes,” she said.
Marlina is a widow who tries to defend herself from robbers who want to rape her. There is a moment when she swings her sword and cuts the assailant’s head. The scene attracted loud cheers from the audience.
Marsha said she had fun filming it and was both happy and relieved to see positive reactions.
“The beheading scene gave us a huge pressure and took lots of time. Many technical requirements had to be met, and at the same time, I had to be able to show the emotions expressing what Marlina has gone through,” Marsha said.
She sees “Marlina” as a drama about survival. Earlier, Marlina is grieving her husband’s death. She has no money to hold a traditional funeral for him. When seven men come to take everything she has, she kills them. Carrying a moral burden, Marlina decides to turn herself in to the police. However, the journey to the police station does not go smoothly.
Marsha joined the film project when Mouly and producer Rama Adi were still writing the script.
She followed them to Kampung Raja village in the eastern part of the Sumba Island in East Nusa Tenggara, to observe local women and their daily lives. The island was a foreign land for Marsha.
“We hung out with these women. They are strong, they work harder than their men. They live a very traditional life. They even have no stoves to cook, they will go barefoot to look for firewood, while their husbands would just stay at home,” she said.
Marlina is like no other role Marsha had played so far.
“I like it that this story is about a woman. I don’t think I have ever seen a film like this. It was quite horrific to see a woman carrying around a decapitated head, but maybe this could happen to anyone desperate to get help,” Marsha said.
Marlina’s character was inspired by the Kampung Raja queen, whom they met while working on the script.
“Women in Sumba are not typical, some of them are well-educated, others are not. Marlina is a combination of several interesting women we met in Sumba. But I was inspired especially by the queen, who is so elegant, soft-spoken and respected by her folks,” the director said.
Dea Panendra, who plays Marlina’s best friend Novi, said the film captures well the life of the island. People in Sumba travel barefoot, sometimes on horses, other times they would hitch a ride from a passing truck carrying livestock.
Mouly took many wide shots to capture the island’s landscape.
“Mouly wanted everything to look real and we made the most of natural lighting. We spent a lot of time under the sun, sometimes just waiting for the clouds to clear and shoot again. Sometimes, Chacha [Marsha] and I didn’t even know where to look, because cameras were so far away,” Dea said.
“Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts” is going to screen in Indonesia in October.
Marsha’s next appearance will be in “Wiro Sableng 212,” beside Vino who plays the title role.