Pasir Berbisik (2001)

Run Time - 104 min.  |   Countries - Indonesia, Japan  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Tom Vick

Directed by Nan Achnas, Indonesia's most prominent woman director, Whispering Sands has an enchanted, dreamlike atmosphere, owing partly to its setting and partly to the fable-like story it tells. Achnas films the East Java desert as if it were itself a living thing, and many of her widescreen landscape shots of shifting sands and swirling dust storms are both gorgeous and haunting. The film is filled with the mythological beliefs of residents of the village where it is set, and the way figures emerge, ghostlike, from the dust and sand that constantly blows across the land, gives them a mystical presence. At the heart of the story is the relationship between Berlian (Christine Hakim) and her daughter, Daya (Dian Sastrowardoyo). Their mother-daughter tug-of-war is intensified by the political violence that continually threatens their existence, and, as seen through the eyes of Daya, whose fairy-tale vision of the world dominates the film, takes on an almost mythological significance. An intriguing mix of otherworldly visions and real-world turmoil, Whispering Sands haunts the viewer with images that linger in the mind long after the film is finished.