DIRECTOR Joko Anwar WRITER Joko Anwar (screenplay); Sekar Ayu Asmara (novel) STARS Fachry Albar; Marsha Timothy; Ario Bayu RELEASE TBC
REVIEW Lloyd Haynes
Based on Sekar Ayu Asmara’s 2004 novel Pintu Terlarang, this is the second feature of Indonesian writer-director Joko Anwar following 2007’s Kala. Gambir (Fachry Albar), a wealthy and successful sculptor with a beautiful wife, Talyda (Marsha Timothy), specialises in unusual statues depicting pregnant women. Dominated by his agent (Tio Pakusodewo), who pushes him to produce more of the same rather than vary the subject, and pestered by his mother (Putri Sukardi) who wants him to father a child with Talyda, Gambir’s frayed nerves are tested further by a series of unusual occurrences: he discovers a concealed door in his workshop which his wife forbids him to open, a strange man he encounters in a hospital corridor refers to Talyda as his enemy, and he is followed everywhere by messages pleading for his help. These lead him to Herosase Incorporated, a sinister organisation whose members retire to plush rooms to watch videos of brutality and horror captured on hidden cameras.
Anwar’s approach to the story owes a considerable debt to the work of David Lynch. The second half of the film, in particular, veers away from the domestic and professional drama of the first 40 minutes or so and concentrates instead on Gambir’s discovery of the titular door and his entry into Herosase, where he becomes obsessed with saving a small boy revealed in one of the videos to be the victim of terrible child abuse. The film draws towards a conclusion that is at once bleak, multi-layered and surprisingly effective. The gore is restrained save for a couple of splattery set pieces, with the emphasis placed squarely on creating a Lynchian atmosphere of incipient dread and unease. Anwar’s direction isn’t without a sense of humour, however — ‘Be a Good Wife. Get a Job’ is prominently displayed on an advertising billboard for Gambir and Talyda’s attention — and the performances are solid throughout, the film benefiting enormously from Rahmat Syaiful’s stylish cinematography.