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  • Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post
Jakarta | Sat, July 2 2016 | 08:27 am

In love: Rudy tries to convince Ilona Ianovska (Chelsea Islan) that they can work out their differences.

Rudi Habibie, the prequel to the 2012 blockbuster, Habibie & Ainun, portrays the struggle of young Indonesians studying abroad in the 1950s — their views about home, nationalism and pluralism.

Rudy Habibie is based on Rudy, a book written by Gina S. Noer built around her interview with Indonesia’s third president, Bacharuddin Jusuf “BJ” Habibie.

Hanung Bramantyo helmed the ambitious Manoj Punjabi — MD Pictures project, with three-year older Reza Rahadian playing the titular character.

The storyline of Rudy Habibie — the former president’s childhood name — follows his first two years at the Rhein Westfalen Technology University in Aachen, Germany, in 1955.

Dubbed as a genius with a knack for building airplane models and flying, he studies aviation and aerospace engineering at the expense of his mother (Dian Nitami), who runs a catering business and rents rooms in Bandung, West Java, to make ends meet for her six children.

The film dedicated a suitable amount of space to those people who had been influential on Rudy — including his late father (Donny Damara), a multilingual agriculturist from Gorontalo, North Sulawesi.

A flashback to when the family still lived in Parepare, South Sulawesi, shows that Rudy was traumatized by air strikes during the Japan invasion in the 1940s. His father later convinced him that airplanes could shorten the time it took to travel in the vast archipelago.

This fact highlighted the absence of an aerospace industry in the country, leading young Rudy to contemplate a solution that should involve all the brilliant Indonesians in Europe.

His methodology trifecta — fact, issue and solution — was applied in many aspects of his life, from his studies, friendships and religion.

When he needed to pray and there was no mosque, he entered a Catholic church to pray based on his conviction that the house of worship was built by people who believed in the same God.

There were touching moments that involved his Indonesian friends and Indonesia-intrigued Polish-German girl Ilona Ianovska (Chelsea Islan), a medical student and one of Rudy’s first loves.

His clique supported his vision to build a modern Indonesia through the Indonesian Student’s Association (PPI) in Aachen. These friends were Liem Keng Kie (Ernest Prakasa), Peter Manusama (Pandji Pragiwaksono) and Poltak Hasibuan (Borisbokir).

Rudy and his friends face-off with another clique of students — former youth soldiers during the war paid by the government to study abroad as a reward — in the PPI voting.

Even though Rudy is chosen to lead the association, despite the betrayal of Ayu (Indah Permatasari) and her wingman Sugeng (Bagas Luhur Pribadi), his idea of organizing a seminar on the development of an aerospace industry is not well received.

Panca (Cornelio Sunny), Mario (GPH Paundrakarna JS) and Agus (Fadika) question Rudy’s nationalism when the latter refuses to mobilize the students to support the national party back home.

The issue of nationalism re-surfaces when Rudy’s submersible ship blueprint is seized by the German authorities who say that he can only reclaim the blueprint if he changes nationality.

In his frustration, he returns to the church to meet with fellow PPI member YB Mangunwijaya or Romo Mangun, the country’s influential Catholic priest and scholar.

Although, to keep the story flow, some scenes in the film are fictitious, the characters and the events are genuine.

In the film, which hit theaters on June 30, viewers are able to see the romanticism of a technocrat, a valuable asset in the history of Indonesia, who made his name in the world of aerospace and aerodynamics engineering.

Habibie celebrated his 80th birthday on June 25, the day of the film’s first press screening.

However, some things require elaboration: Reza may have perfectly performed the well-known version of BJ Habibie’s lively facial expression and speech mannerisms, but was he like that when he first arrived in Germany?

If he always possessed the South Sulawesi-Dutch-German accent, why does the cast member playing his younger brother Fany, Junus Effendi Habibie, speak with a Javanese accent? The family spent years in Bandung.

Perhaps the filmmakers could also provide additional information about the fate of the film’s main characters if they are not planning to write them into any future sequel.

Other than that, the on-screen reality was believable.

The recreation of the Tillman Brothers performing live at the PPI dance parties was plausible, regardless the fact that Manoj Punjabi employed Hollywood sound editor and re-recording mixer Chris David to do the sound mix.

All of the cast were decent, including Millane Fernandez who plays Ilona’s roommate Sofia and Chelsea Islan appears to have developed a screen charisma that is on a par with Reza.

The film attempts to deliver a plethora of messages — one of them is that there is hope for geeks.

It is interesting to glimpse into the personal life of a statesman; Rudy Habibie is an inspiring family movie for the holidays.

— Photos Courtesy of MD Pictures
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Rudy Habibie (Habibie & Ainun 2)

(MD Pictures; 142 minutes)

Director: Hanung Bramantyo
Cast: Reza Rahadian, Chelsea Islan, Ernest Prakasa, Pandji Pragiwaksono, Indah Permatasari, Dian Nitami, Donny Damara
Personal moment: Tarzan nuzzles his wife, Jane (Margot Robbie).

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