Her fans might not recognise Marsha Timothy in her latest movie, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts. She’s not the glammed-up star they are used to seeing in films like Chocolate Strawberry and Khalifa. In fact, she’s a chapped-lipped, unkempt and far from glitzy character in her new film.
Prior to its November release, the movie had garnered much acclaim on the international film festival circuit. The Toronto Film Festival described it as a “powerful, provocative and visually stunning” piece. Directed by Mouly Surya, who previously helmed 2013’s Yang tidak dibicarakan ketika membicarakan cinta, the movie is about a widow who seeks vengeance after being attacked and robbed by a gang of men.
Marsha’s powerful portrayal of Marlina impressed critics. As Maggie Lee of Variety put it, Marsha “carries the film majestically, in a clenched performance that achieves catharsis without demonstrative expression”. Her performance also won her the Best Actress award at the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival in Catalonia, Spain in October.
One of the nominees she beat in her category was none other than Nicole Kidman. “I heard the news the morning after,” says Marsha. “Mouly went to the festival, and she was the one who told me. I could only laugh in disbelief. Of course I’m happy and very grateful, but the whole thing is still very surreal.” Talking of film festivals, the actress, who made her first movie in 2006 and has amassed more than 1.2 million Instagram followers, has still not recovered from her Cannes experience.
Last May, Marlina had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. It was one of 24 features selected for the prestigious “Directors’ Fortnight” section. “It’s an honour to have your movie screened at one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals,” says Marsha. “Even so, I was prepared for the worst.” How so? “I’ve heard stories about people walking out during Cannes premieres and about films getting booed,” she goes on. “To our relief, the critics reacted positively – we received a standing ovation. It was an out-of-this-world, indescribable experience.”
Accompanying Marsha to Cannes were her four-year-old daughter Jizzy and her actor husband Vino G. Bastian. Asked how she copes with having a family as well as a successful career, the actress says: “So far it’s been manageable. Whenever my husband takes on a film project, I’m the one taking care of Jizzy, and it’s the other way round when it’s one of my movies. I’m thankful for my assistants at home and my mother, who is always there for me. I can be at ease whenever I leave my daughter with them.”
Her husband is one of the nation’s finest actors. Sharing the same profession means they often rely on each other for emotional support. “I ask my husband for advice all the time,” says Marsha. “Each time we’re offered a new project, we ask each other’s opinions about it. We discuss as respective actors, so it’s never about asking for each other’s permission. This is how we support each other.”
At the time of her interview, Marsha was rehearsing for her live theatre debut in a play called Perempuan-Perempuan Chairil (Chairil’s Women). The piece is about Chairil Anwar, a prominent Indonesian poet, and the women who inspired his work. Starring alongside Reza Rahadian, Marsha plays Ida Nasution, one of Chairil’s muses.
“Ida was a very intelligent person,” says Marsha. “She was a rare breed -a writer, an editor and a translator. As well as being one of Chairil’s lovers, she was his equal. This is my first taste of theatre. I’ve been preparing and rehearsing for three months. Although nervewracking, it’s been a great journey.”
The play had two performances at Taman Ismail Marzuki on November 11 and 12. Marsha is currently shooting Wiro Sableng 212, a remake based on the hugely popular novel and comic book series and set for release in 2018. Marsha plays alongside Vino and singer-actress Sherina Munaf.
The actress has one word to describe the last year: blessed. “I couldn’t have imagined the things I achieved this year,” she says. “I was given lots of opportunities to move forward. I just feel greatly blessed. Whenever people ask me about resolutions for the upcoming year, I never have an answer. I don’t think I’m an ambitious person, so I never really think that far ahead. I’ve always been the type of person who rolls with the punches and hopes for the best.”