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Puteri Gunung Ledang 2004
Description: In the late 15th century, a forbidden romance blossoms between Gusti Putri, a Javanese Hindu princess and Hang Tuah, a Malay Muslim fighter from Melaka, vs a backdrop of fight and mysticism.
Released: 31 Aug 2004 Director: Teong Hin Saw Writers: Mamat Khalid, Teong Hin Saw Actors: Tiara Jacquelina, M. Nasir, Adlin Aman Ramlee, Man Bai Genres: Romance, Fantasy, Drama
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Puteri Gunung Ledang Reviews:

Watching this film with the best expectations of not being disappointed is usually the priority of watching any Malaysian movie. Related can be told to another Malaysian films like Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam and Seri Dewi Malam. But the outcome of Puteri Gunung Ledang (PGL) is extremely good, if not beyond the expectations that is for a Malaysian Film.M. Nasir has finally set the record straight, and the bar for testing Hang Tuah. I can no longer see anyone else enjoy the coveted role of a Malay character than he can. His portrayal of the righteous character is played so well that most folks that have watched him almost believed that he is Hang Tuah.Tiara Jaquelina played the role of Gusti Putri quite well. Her portrayal of a Majapahit Hindu royalty although not really as nice as Nasir's portrayal of Hang Tuah is still notable. Some critics would call her a stick on screen but is that what royalties do? Look at the portrayal Queen Elizabeth I, or Lady Jane Seymour of England. They are as much as a stick as Gusti Putri was. Nothing more can be told about her.Christine Hakim was in my own private view played the most prominent hero in the life of Gusti Putri although her appearance in the film was only for the first 15 mins of the movie. She made Gustri Putri sound more Malaysian than Indonesian which in turn strengthens her character. Unfortunately her hero was ended early which was most unfortunate.Skipping the another characters and side-winding to the aspects of direction of the film I search that it is very well orchestrated by Teong Hin Saw. He made PGL so pretty directed that you should not trust it is made by a Malaysian. He was, no, is the excellent choice for the helm of PGL.For the terrible part of the movie. Results for PGL is almost overwhelming that you can see that most of the results can be seen as, well, fake. Except for the war stage (SPOILER WARNING!!!) of Gusti Adipati & Hang Tuah, all another results for the film is, OK.What is most striking about the film is the usage of variable camera angles that is almost not used or very badly used in another Malaysian movies. The usage of the classic Malay language and Java scripts is a nice plus since it it drives the movie-goers to listen carefully to the spoken word. It is simply awe inspiring.Overall, PGL is worthy of an international release. This should be the landmark and a beginning for more and better Malaysian films IF and ONLY IF the Malaysian directors and producers are willing to experiment, research and spend lots of cash like our Hollywood counterparts do.


This handsomely mounted period epic set during the 16th century Malaccan empire is Malaysia's most expensive movie at US$5M. The princess of Majapahit, Retno Dumillah, exiles herself to the Malaccan peak of Mount Ophir to entreat the company of her lover, the Malaccan fighter Hang Tuah. This is in launch defiance of her brother, Gusti Adipati, the ruler of Majapahit, who had intended to marry her to a prince of the rival Demak empire. Adipati then decides to forge an alliance with the Malaccan sultanate instead by offering his sister as bride to the reigning Sultan, Mahmud. Hang Tuah's allegiance to duty is legendary. He slew his greatest friend, Hang Jebat, many years prior on the Sultan Mansor's orders. However, the Sultan Mahmud, a preening and decadent ruler, is a pale shadow of the glorious lineage of Malaccan royalty. Could Hang Tuah banish forever his love in favor of a vainglorious tyrant?Production values are perfect in general. Picture overall has a glossy, polished sheen. Some inexperience in photography is evident – an intruding palm frond at the edges of the frame, actors half slash off at the sides, shot suddenly partially blocked by the back of an actor in front of the camera (!). The period milieu and mise-en-scene are gorgeous, the palace rituals and traditional malay / javanese speech appear authentic. Great background research there. The melody is perfect with a great mix of western strings and Malay traditional instruments like the sruling during the love scenes and rebana in the palace scenes. The acting is uniformly above par across the board, especially M. Nasir as the legendary warrior, Hang Tuah. Malaysian actors are some of the finest in this region and Nasir carries a screen presence that conveys the nobility of this most popular of perwira melayu. It is also great to see Rahim Razali, a household screen personality, in an amiable performance as the Tok Bendahara. Tiara Jacquelina as the titular princess is adequately winsome. The script, however, does not let her to present why she was such a sought after woman. Sofia Jane appears more assured as the Sultan's wife. Adlin Ramlee's alternately cocky, languid and foppish portrayal of Sultan Mahmud takes some getting used to, but in retrospect, it seems about right. Both the princess and the sultan receive a possibility to shine with a neat verbal confrontation near the end. The standout is Christine Hakim who, quite frankly, is a class act. Alex Komang is a washout in a poorly written role as the Majapahit prince, consisting exclusively of sneers and scowls.The storyline overall should do with a lot more dramatic urgency. Many sequences look thrown in to appease the multiplex crowd, inserted without attention to the overall arc of the story. An earlier sequence of Hang Tuah taking on a posse of 'lanun darat' is very well done. However, there is a gratuitous action sequence which comes in so far off leftfield, involving some silly 70s- style kungfu fighting, that threatens to derail the whole film. This is the sort of action sequence where a warrior slashes his dagger in the air and ten fireballs erupt around him from the ground. Although this was meant as a 'battle of the mind', the overall result is laughably cheesy. Worse, the entire sequence is arbitrarily inserted at a most inappropriate part of the narrative – there is no buildup and aftermath. Likewise, CGI superimposition of the 'seven requests of the princess', floating across the screen like a ticker tape, is ungainly. Elsewhere, instead of hero driven scenes, we receive actors who pose and pose while mouthing purple prose. Many problems are unfocused as a result. Why and how did Hang Tuah and Dumillah fall in love? There are great scenes of the couple riding horseback, doing an intricate courtship dance, at a lake. They look pretty, like postcards of two folks in love, but the scenes lack current resonance. At one point, Hang Tuah shows the princess his large Keris; she stares in awe at it. Unfortunately, no hero driven dialog. The crucial stage where Hang Tuah meets his beloved atop Mount Ophir begins off nicely: like a breathless teenager hopelessly late for a date, he blurts: 'Dah tunggu lama ke?' ('Been waiting long?'). However, this is proceeded by unlimited swooping, panning and swirling of the camera around the actors including editing that I trust violate the 180 degree rule. All that 'technique' is frankly distracting. What's wrong with action-reaction, medium two shots and close-ups anyway? There are more than few shots where the emphasis was more on a sunset or a waterfall than the characters themselves. Anyway, the lovers go at it with dialog cribbed from a Harlequin romance. Whither the inner conflict of the noble fighter between love and duty? We do receive a solitary soliloquy of sorts: Hang Tuah talking to his reflection in a puddle of water like a refugee from an Ingmar Bergman film, and that's it. Why the nice animosity between Hang Tuah and the Java prince? The movie offers absolutely no exposition there.Being a prestige film, direction is serious and high minded. However, this is largely betrayed by a dearth of psychological depth and dramatic weight. A certain lack of joie-de-vivre permeates the film, making one want that the late nice P. Ramlee should lend his charismatic presence to the entire proceedings.The movie ends poetically with Hang Tuah rushing up Mount Ophir in a sequence of solemn and hushed silence, in a moment of cathartic realization and sadness. The broad strokes for a grand tragedy are all there, but the interlocking narrative is unfocused. It's like hearing bits and pieces of a symphony from a distance. It's a shame: the cash saved from that silly bit of aerial kungfu fighting should have gone towards extra scenes between the two main characters – the final sequence should have had much more impact.


For the first time in my life, I really have to admit that Puteri Gunung Ledang is so far the first Malaysian film that includes all the right ingredients for a nice and watchable movie. Truthfully, I have never liked any Malaysian-made films before PGL, thinking that either the filmmakers here never now bother for quality for the sake of cash or perhaps, obviously, that they don't know the proper principles of film-making after all. When I decided to watch PGL a several weeks ago, I kept asking myself if this cash was worth the ticket price. Fortunately, it was. Thanks to Teong Hin Saw's brilliant direction, PGL gives a refreshingly fresh perspective to the casual viewers and also fanatics of Globe History.Basically, it is a love storyline between Hang Tuah, the legendary Malay Fighter of Malacca and the Javanese princess Gusti Putri (the game character) whose relationship arouses the tensions between two worlds: the Sultanate of Malacca and the Majapahit Empire. The plot may be a bit straightforward but its production values makes a major leap over the previous Malaysian outings; you can safely assume that PGL is definitely a work of a pro. Nice cinematography (forget about the Cameron Highlands issue), exhilarating camera moves and editing, decent fighting sequences and quality SFX prove it all. Casting, on the another side, is a mixed bag: some perform extremely well, expressing their strong gestures convincingly while the rest are surprisingly wooden, leaving lots of rooms for improvement.It's real that PGL is not without flaws: the most obvious is the pacing of the whole film and as a result, it is not a well balanced movie. The lack of any action sequence in the middle act makes the film seem a bit draggy, filled with long (twisted for some viewers) conversations, tight focus upon the two lovers and another unnecessary slow-moving sequences. Unlike any international epic films you have seen, PGL is rated 'G', suitable for the entire family, which basically means that it includes no forms of profanity or suggestive elements that may otherwise prove sensitive to some viewers. This only cheapens the maturity of this movie: for me, the entire movie, despite perfect production values, feels mild and unsatisfying as if I ate a half-baked cake. PGL should have been a nice contender in any movie festival if a) it were a bit more sensual (ala Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), b) more violent (ala Peter Jackson's The King of the Rings trilogy), c) more thought-provoking and visually more disturbing (ala Ron Howard's A Pretty Mind). Despite these inevitable drawbacks, the Malaysian movie industry seems to be taking the right path and this is just the beginning. For now, PGL feels like a nice movie. Not phenomenal, though.



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