Women In Crime

“Within three acts reprising Marlina The Murderer In Four Acts”

The look of Sumba encompassed in vibrant color, plaintive vegetation, and austere hemisphere might invent enthralling portrait of nature. Significant numbers of viewers are amply pleased by these eyegasmic stillness of landscape. They will leave the theater and paraphrase to their friends by saying, “Marlina (Marlina The Murderer In Four Acts) is visually stunning”. Those who are familiar with western cult-classic film would reteam the murderer, Marlina, with the outlaw cowboy, Clint Eastwood. Alas, the fusion, between grandiose setting and pulpy genre, at any time is ready to overwhelm the big conversation this movie tries to contrive.

By separating the gimmick of look and style from its own narrative, the desolation of Sumba has never been so clingy as the context of where the tragedy takes place. Sumba more likely stands as a proxy than as an oriental provenance, it’s like another quasi of isolated and dangerous place for women in the world. The setting can be teleported to Congo, where 1152 women are raped every day, or to Afghanistan, where 90% of women are suffering from sexual violence, without ever rewrite the urgency of the issue.

Besides the showy glance and formidable tone the film accommodates to capture, Marlina inherently speaks volume about rape in the vicious chain of patriarchal system, about the heroism of heroines who are socially marginalized, and the rest of the bombshell is the vanguard after the film was done, the applicable feminism. These visceral visions are actually more laudable than the splendid imagery in Sumba.

The Act Of Rape

Our cultural framework has constructed what is rape in the scheme like this: A girl walks alone in isolated place, in the midnight. Suddenly, she’s attacked aggressively by a man with a weapon. Although, the victim continually resists during the act, she remains helpless and paralyzed. Psychologist, Martha Burt insinuates this conventional societal perspective in term called ‘real rape’.

The assailants in Marlina -there must be seven, only six who show up that night- come to visit Marlina’s house like normal guests, they sit conveniently in the living room waiting the food to be served by her. The first one who shows up, Markus, conveys their intention to sleep with her in a manner like a man proposing a woman, “You’ll be the luckiest girl tonight”. In harrowing voice she utters her consent “I’m the most miserable one”.

Until Markus finally rapes her, the rest of the men have barely touched her. At this point, this movie wickedly plays out with the act of aggression, sneers at what society defines as real rape, and refutes the validity of consent as the key tenet to legitimize rape as crime scene that follows the insurance for the victim. How the story line draws the problematic stratum of Marlina’s disposition, that she was a murderer in the first place before being raped, is remarkable in intensifying ‘the myth of rape’ regarding what so called ‘victim blaming’, the prevalent belief system that endorses notion like ‘because woman is wearing something sexually aroused, she also should take responsibility of the rape’. The victim already committed to the crime, before the crime itself.

Burt in her essay also explained, “In the majority of rapes, the victim was promiscuous or had a bad reputation.” Marlina doesn’t showcase any voyeuristic attitude, but being conventionally pretty with status as a widow casually grants notorious reputation for her that makes any man feels free to access her body. It legitimately prescribes traditional notion about the reliance of man under woman’s faculty, a single attractive woman without a man beside her is allowed to be objectified sexually.

The Act of Retaliation

Rape is a simply matter of gender order where patriarchal system summons men to always claim their domination above women in every sphere of social, politic, and economy (Johnson, 1997). Comprehensively, men are crown with hegemonic masculinity, all the aspect of virility: intelligence, aggressiveness, and strength will be embraced to constitute their power over women. Consequently they register in maddening, heterosexist orientation in which any form of sexual harassment is the defining expression of physical power they aspire to imbue.

In response to this gendered expectation, Marlina buoys in convergence of feminine characteristics as the weapon to subvert the male native superiority. In her domestication, Marlina kills some of the assailants with her poisonous chicken soup. In her naivete, Novi, Marlina’s pregnant friend who is as miserable as Marlina — after getting dumped by her husband because of prejudice that her undue pregnancy is the cause of her disloyalty — beheaded the rapist with machete before she gives birth. Considering their status as the most inferior creatures on earth, a widow and a pregnant woman without husband squatting and urinating in the motherland of sunburn, enunciates that the film is totally aiming to compensate the vengeance over misogynism.

By adopting the set of masculinity aspects Marlina is basking on the top of heroic feminism. It might suffuse to the realm of gender equality erasing the murky territory between masculine and feminine, yet this movie subdues to a total misfire of persuading men inclusively to join feminist bandwagon. Meanwhile the female characters in Marlina is depicted in sumptuous, gradational spectrum, the male characters have no depth at all, solely a group of bad men. Then it leads to fall flat on its concern, this film could be seen as validation about the notion that equips every man is a rapist. Franz, I thought would save the men’s ass in the end, but his function is merely as a tool to finalize the counterattack of rabid feminism. The absent of neutralism on the behalf of man painstakingly disavows the merit of equality itself, reinforces the fallacy of feminism, and truncates the issue to be less-alarming.

The Act of Reflection

There are many reservations that can dissuade Marlina to report the rapist to the police. These are still revolving around the myth of rape the society believes such as the enough amount of physical evidence to achieve criminal justice, the public shaming exposure, and police officer’s bias gender attitude. Furthermore, Marlina is in disadvantageous state with terror as a murderer she more likely has to endure instead of as a victim, once again it’s a mockery that subtly touches the state of culpability (Miller, 1993) as a rape victim because of double-standard law.

Susan Brown Miller in her book Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape states that the seeming tacit consent or compliancy during rape can easily mitigate the severity of the case, like what apparently Marlina did. Before the rape she had never resisted — although it turned out as a part of her ploy. Later in the third act, Marlina reconstructs the act of rape in more believable version in order to get the police’s attention. It instigates to wonder after the long journey she has ridden on, is it worth to confess? About what she has done, can it be accepted? Where should the justice lean on?

This film has never had an intention to answer those questions, Marlina prefers to have the questions leave intact in the end, and I don’t think this present reality can provide evenhanded answers too. Even in the end, the sequence of the final retaliation from Marlina and Novie isn’t reaching to its moment of catharsis. The villains are defeated, but it doesn’t resolve anything.

Co-opting violence against violence cannot be look as the option to amend. For sure women need to fight back, but foremost men need to change, and society should correspond. As it complies with Miller’s phrase, “The theory of aggressive male domination over women as a natural right is so deeply embedded in our cultural value system…”. The resolution does not alleviate in the film instead it grows inside us who see it, moving us to reflect and contemplate what is fit for better future.


Burt, M. R. 1980. “Cultural Myths and Support for Rape”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 38:217–230.

Johnson, A. G. 1997. The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press

Miller, S. B. 1993. Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape. New York: Ballantine Books

http://hyperakt.com/items/archived/the-worlds-five-most-dangerous-countries-for-women/ accessed on December,1st, 2017