REVIEW: ‘Ave Maryam’ (2018) Shows the Inner Struggles of a Forbidden Love

Rating: 3 out of 5.

“A crucial part of storytelling that fails to convey the ideas that the Ave Maryam attempts to explore.”

In Robby Ertanto’s Ave Maryam, an exotic tale of a forbidden courtship between a nun and a priest yearns for intimacy. The film tells the story of a young Muslim woman, Maryam (Maudy Koesnaedi) who devotes her life to the Church and takes care of the elderly nuns in the monastery. She desires to explore what is outside of her usual life, but they are questioned by the nuns and the priests, reminding Maryam that she is bound in allegiance to the Church. When a new priest, Father Yosef (Chicco Jerikho) arrives at the monastery, he brings a different perspective to Maryam’s life and their romance blossoms into something sinful. Both of them are aware of the consequences, but once their romance blossoms, they cannot seem to let it go. 

Everything about the themes of Ave Maryam feels like a story that has already been told before in cinema, which can sometimes be good but in the case of this movie, it’s concept is simple. It reveals Maryam’s desires outside of the monastery to the couple’s untimely romance, and the scenes captivate with beautiful cinematography and locations. While their courtship is meant to be the film’s main conflict, it lacks narratively and visually. The character’s do not express their desires through dialogue, only with expressions and performances. It lacks the emotional and romantic connection that the audience is looking for in their courtship. When Maryam and Father Yosef are at a cafe, outside of the curious and judgemental eyes of the nuns and priests, the characters quietly observe each other, taking in their presence while the surrounding sounds such as the sound of a car passing by is produced to make up for the lack of background music. Ertanto attempts to build up their romantic tension but it is not fulfilled in a way that brings their loneliness and sense of yearning for each other to their full potential. The two characters understand their life-long vows to the church however their motivation to stay together ends up confusing them, so they are left with an unsatisfactory closure, full of guilt and shame. 

Nevertheless, Ave Maryam’s cinematography makes up for the lack of romance and passion in the movie. Ican Tanjung’s artistic touch brings a new dimension and conveys their complex romance beautifully. It is a visual orgasm with symmetrical imagery and the beautiful landscapes and architecture of the city of Semarang. The shots are crafted with the utmost attention to detail and the peaceful surroundings of the monastery are shot pleasantly and beautifully. Although the dialogue might be the element that lacked, Ave Maryam is a beautiful story with stunning shots, messages that need to be discussed as it pertains to different interpretations of the film. 

In truth, Ave Maryam does not dive deep into the religious doctrines, it instead focuses on the couple’s feelings and the consequences of their actions. It is a story revealed in silence and subtleties, but because of the complex themes and hidden messages tucked away in the movie, the dialogue fails to convey what the characters are truly feeling. Even if the performances and cinematography help to assist the lack of dialogue, it is a crucial part of storytelling that fails to convey the ideas that the Ave Maryam attempts to explore.

Dir: Ertanto Robby Soediskam

Prod: Ertanto Robby Soediskam and Tia Hasibuan

Cast: Maudy Koesnaedi, Chicco Jerikho, Tutie Kirana, Olga Lydia, Joko Anwar, Nathania Angela

Release Date: 11 April 2019 (Indonesia)