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Love, religion and social difference: Two films about polygamy and Indonesian society

Hatley, BL 2009 , 'Love, religion and social difference: Two films about polygamy and Indonesian society', in Y Machalik and L Coppens (eds.), Asian Hot Shots: Indonesian Cinema , Schuren Verlag GmbH, Marburg, Germany, pp. 46-63.

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The very titles of two popular films on the controversial topic of polygamy in Indonesia
signal their contrasting perspectives. SHARING A HUSBAND (BERBAGI SUAMI)l speaks un-
ambiguously from the position of the wife, receiving only a partial share of the marital
whole; its blunt, straightforward wording indicates the sharing process to be one of earthy,
practical give and take. (RELIGIOUS) VERSES OF LOVE (AYAT.-AYAT CINTA), drawing on
the term for Koranic verses, suggests a religiously blessed state, suffused with the tender
emotions of romantic love. In fact both films contain similar statements about polygamy.
Both films refer to the Koranic provision that polygamy is allowable only if the husband is
able to treat his wives equally: in each case the authoritative speaker who makes this reference also asserts that it is impossible for a husband to maintain such equality. Thus the
problematic quality of polygamy is clearly established. Indeed. even in AYAT-AYAT CINTA,
in which all parties enter polygamous marriage willingly, the situation is shown to give
rise to considerable pain and stress. Nevertheless, apart from this point of agreement, the
two films convey completely different perspectives on the topic, one critical, realistic, the
other sympathetic and romantic. They do so within an overall contrast of style, setting and
ambience. And they speak to opposing positions in what is currently the most prominent
divide in Indonesia's complex, heterogeneous society: that separating conservative, orthodox
Muslims and liberal, secular-minded social groups.

Item Type: Book Section
Authors/Creators:Hatley, BL
Publisher: Schuren Verlag GmbH
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