Selamat Pagi, Malam: taking a jab at Jakarta’s hypocrisy


If I had a one-way ticket to any country that I could give to anyone on the streets of Jakarta, I’m pretty sure there will be a few that would throw punches at each other to get it. Who wouldn’t take the chance to escape the insufferable traffic of the Big Durian? Everybody loves to hate Jakarta. Those who don’t are either never have lived anywhere else or blessed with an immeasurable amount of optimism. Lucky Kuswandi’s Selamat Pagi, Malam (In the Absence of the Sun) understands this very well, and through the lives of three women within a night, Jakartans and non-Jakartans alike can pick one of them to relate themselves to: Ci Surya or Mrs. Surya (Dayu Wijanto) ventured into the dark side of the city after finding the number of the mistress of her recently deceased husband; Gia (Adinia Wirasti) just got back from years in New York to find her ‘friend’ Naomi (Marissa Anita) isn’t what she used to be; and Indri (Ina Panggabean) found herself meeting up with a mysterious man after sexting with him on her secondhand smartphone. The anthology formula is nothing new in the Indonesian movie scene, and confining the stories within the boundaries of Jakarta was already the recipe of Salman Aristo’s Jakarta Maghrib (2010). Fortunately, Selamat Pagi, Malam decides to embrace the city’s social issues instead of pushing the urban-romanticizing as a main course.

Young people religiously playing with their iPhones and Galaxy Tabs in between the rusty windows and cramped leg room of Metro Mini (small buses) is not an uncommon sight if you use public transport daily — something that is also common in many countries, yet the stark difference between their ultramodern gadgets and the filthy seats they sit in may be unique to the city only. Indri, a lowly staff from a flashy local gym, is an example of this, as her enamoring new (secondhand) smartphone contained a little hope of higher life, in the form of a BBM contact with a six-pack abs as the display picture. Masking her inadequacy with empty shopping bags before meeting up with said contact in a fancy restaurant is just one way the film pointed us the not-necessarily-hypocritical contrast of both end of the spectrum of life in Jakarta, with the other end being the early thirtysomething Gia, a former New Yorker, massively baffled as she dined with her old mate Naomi and her socialite friends where everyone is fixated to their smartphones and taking obligatory selfies in the very same restaurant. This is a common jab at Indonesians and Jakartans in general: Creating a ‘highlight reel’ of their life out of photos and status updates while making little interaction to the world outside their social media. Lucky Kuswandi chose to take the blatant way to express it, though, since Gia felt the need to repeat every sentiment verbally even after a completely in-your-face scene mocking the socialites’ social media syndrome. At times, the message is as subtle as a repeated hammer to the face, though the performance of Adinia Wirasti and Marissa Anita is easily the best chemistry on the screen — surprisingly so, because Marissa Anita is a well-known newscaster with no prior acting experience.


On the other hand, the two stories are also intertwined with the life of Ci Surya, and her every scene is where the film took a detour. Dayu Wijanto was a perfect fit to embody the character of a middle-aged lady trying to justify her existence through drugs and sex, but apparently her part adds very little to the film, except for being a notable performance piece. The supposed interaction between her and the mistress Sofia (Dira Sugandi) left a lot to be desired. The only saving grace was Sofia’s enchanting singing scene, and the rest was brutally cut by the hand of the censorship, including the explicit scenes between Indri and her newfound darling Faisal (Trisa Triandesa, definitely a showstealer). It seems ironic that an institution could take away so much from a very honest depiction of life in Jakarta after dark, but the fact that this film survives the censorship alone is good enough for us now.

Selamat Pagi, Malam is as much a very humane drama as it is a social commentary. Naomi insisted on Jakarta’s near-nil walkability until Gia persuaded her to take a walk, and suddenly the home-car-mall-home capsule living sounds like a dystopian delusion spread by the paranoid upper class of the city (and it is, believe me, some people are just that sheltered). Indri wondered what a ‘Chicken Soft Roll’ is until the waiter told her it is basically the street food lumpia made more western. All the while, Ci Surya is battling her inner demon and eventually lost (or won), Gia and Naomi reminisce their old life in the States while brushing with the very prevalent undertones of their past romantic relationship (“There’s no place for us here”), and both are proof that Lucky Kuswandi is more than able to amalgamate the multiple layers into one coherent story. If anything, the one aspect that bothers me the most is how the movie is almost another cinematical victim of Indonesian sentimentality through the obligatory shots of Monas, food hawkers, and malls, backed with sugary slow guitar. The film probably won’t last long in theaters, though, and they lightheartedly took a jab at it, so if you’re reading this before the end of June, do yourself a favor and watch it at the nearest theater to support the filmmakers. If it’s already gone, curse the cinema network and pray that they will release a DVD edition later. With 8 (eight!) years in the making, Selamat Pagi, Malam is definitely worth your money, and everyone involved in it has made a right step towards a better Indonesian cinema.


Selamat Pagi, Malam (In the Absence of the Sun)
Indonesian, English
Runtime: 92 min.
Release date: June 19 2014
Director: Lucky Kuswandi
Writer: Lucky Kuswandi
Cast: Adinia Wirasti, Marissa Anita, Ina Panggabean, Dayu Wijanto, Trisa Triandesa, Dira Sugandi, Aming
Company: PT Kepompong Gendut

27. June 2014 by Kevin Aditya
Categories: Movies | Leave a comment

Swimming: a playlist

You are staring at your screen right now, perhaps, when you are supposedly doing something else of higher importance. But it’s justifiable. You’ve had a long week and need just a moment to catch some air. You could make a cup of coffee but beside you now is a cup of Darjeeling because you need to calm your nerves instead of amping them up. It’s okay. The comfort of your bed awaits. Your eyes will probably start a drowsy revolution to avoid staying up for another match of World Cup tonight. It’s no big deal, everyone else is most likely half conscious as well right now. Until you realize they really aren’t. They’re off doing something better like sleeping or watching movies or having some adventure on the other side of the globe… all the while you’re stuck staring at your screen pandering the worth of your existence. No worries, dear. Give up to your lack of energy. Rest your head and close your eyes. Listen to some better songs from the first half of 2014.


01. Disappearing — The War on Drugs
02. America — Fear of Men
03. Hazey — Glass Animals
04. Parade — The Antlers
05. Whispers from the Ether — Kognitif
06. Joey — Honeyblood
07. Gold — Chet Faker
08. Glowing Cityscape — Manon Meurt
09. Sick Talk — Wye Oak
10. Treat Her Better — Mac DeMarco
11. I Know — Flamingo
12. Coral and Gold — The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

13. Gone Wrong — Plastic Flowers

Edit: I forgot my favorite track from Plastic Flowers, now added as the 13th track, included on the download.

Get it here password: kevinadityadotcom

13. June 2014 by Kevin Aditya
Categories: Music | 2 comments

Ruam Rumah


tertidur di sudut,

matamu terbuka,

pandanganmu mengerucut

udara di antara kita

tidak pernah menjamah luka.


lambat napasmu


katup bibirmu

mudah menyerah,

dan  aku membuka

“siapa dia?”

Bandung, 2012

02. June 2014 by Kevin Aditya
Categories: Poetry | Leave a comment

The slight scent of the sea

“I met Aunt Anna in my dream last night.” Nair mentioned this as if she were ordering a Venti, soft yet resolute, assuring I actually heard what she had just said. I took a gaze at her, she was gazing at the dead traffic outside. The windshield blurred slightly as I activated the wiper, and the soft wiping rhythm helped me regain my inner composure. “Aunt Anna? What did you two do in the dream?” I fixated my stare to the road, restraining my gesture to avoid giving any hint of reaction. “She took me to the museum. You know, the one I used to visit when we were little. It wasn’t anything unusual. Sometimes she grabbed my hand as we cruise through one sculpture to another, but she never bothered to blabber out how this painting looks like spilled milk or how the one on the corner is just a bunch of stupid wires, unlike what she usually do. She stayed still, a few seconds on one, a solid five minutes on another. She’s almost like communicating with them, sometimes moving her lips without muttering any words. Then she stopped at a painting.”

I noticed she took a quick look at me. Her mouth was half agape, seeming hesitant to finish the cliffhanger.


“And… she didn’t actually do anything different. Only this time, her hand reached out to touch the painting. Very slowly. I don’t think she even actually touched it, but maybe the tip of her finger managed to brush a little. A very tender one. It’s almost like she is touching fire.”

“What painting was it? And what happened afterwards?”

“I think it’s a Whistler or Grimshaw, I’m not sure. I can only stare at her beautiful figure. Looks like an oceanic Nocturne though.” I then remembered how Nair adored her dearly Aunt Anna so much, how her eyes shone every time she came by. She’s a beaut, without a doubt. Many different men have come and go, but nobody could win her heart. She was always flying from town to town, then country to country, obsessed to climb up the vicious ladder on that multinational food company. But she always had time for her beloved niece Nair, probably as a replacement for a daughter she never could have. Or, perhaps she could, if only the ferry she was on didn’t decide to go to the bottom of the sea instead, fifteen years ago. She was 31. And so is Nair right now.

“So… she touched a painting? That’s all?”

“No. She told me to touch it, too. You’re not supposed to touch them, you know. But I touched it anyway. And that very instant, we weren’t there anymore. We were in the… sea. I mean, we were on the sea. I walked on water.”

“Whoa, what?”

“A seagull flew by and landed on her hand. (I don’t know if this is possible.) She asked me if I wanted to go back, the bird will take me back. Otherwise I should follow her.”

I stopped paying attention to the traffic. This sounded like stories on pulp fictions. “You don’t think…”

“Yeah, I know. I wasn’t feeling afraid. I wasn’t feeling anything. I only knew that I wanted to follow her to the end of the world. Looking at her graceful back was enough for me — she had a wavy black hair. But the seagull seemed eager to fly off of her arm.”

“So you took the bird and it turned into a huge magical dragon to carry you home.”

“No. I followed her.”

“You w- okay… so it didn’t end there. Where did you two go?”

“To the bottom of the sea.”

“What. Haha, that isn’t funny, Nair. I know you really miss her that m-

“I’m not joking. The darkness wraps around you, and it is cold, but also very endearing, because I’m holding her hand and she grabs mine tight.” Her eyes were dead serious as she uttered those words, but she wasn’t looking at me. Suddenly she pointed her finger as if she had a grim idea, or a punchline to an otherwise dark prank.

Before I could say anything, my phone rang. And it answered itself before I even pressed the virtual green button. A murky voice was on the other end. “Hello? Hello, Jim?” I can’t believe Nair’s father dared to call me, a man who I finally had the courage to smack hard when I was 20, when he beat Nair with a wooden stick like he always do, this time right in front of my eyes. Thankfully my big bearlike posture was more than enough to make sure he wouldn’t bother her anymore.

“I-I’m sorry to have to call you, but have you seen Nair? I couldn’t-

“Didn’t you promise not to contact her again?”

“Yes, I did, but she occasionally contacted me, and this time I haven’t heard from her for-

“Cut it. Nair is here with me. You can’t ask her for money anymore. She won’t bother to hear from you anyway.
Right, Nair?”



The passenger seat was empty. It was still warm. The doors were still locked. I slammed the brakes and pulled over,
and only then I noticed the slight scent of the sea, conveying the inclemency of the hundred thousand leagues where
she belongs now.

28. April 2014 by Kevin Aditya
Categories: Fiction | 3 comments

The Raid 2, and things about snow


For those who watched the violence-fest that is The Raid back in 2011, the Gareth Evans-led action flick was a not-so-gentle reminder that Indonesian movies can fare much better in the right hands. It was indeed catered to a specific audience and not exactly a Sunday family treat, but it was a boom anyway. Everybody watched it and left thoroughly impressed — regardless of whether they actually enjoyed the bloodbath or not. In this spirit, Evans returns with a sequel that once again reminds us that we can actually watch quality entertainment with Indonesian faces on a big screen.

Now, I’m gonna spare you some story spoiling: Rama (Iko Uwais) returns to infiltrate the Jakarta crime syndicate led by Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo) by befriending his son Uco (Arifin Putra), while eyeing the up-and-rising gangster Bejo (Alex Abbad) who plans on taking over Jakarta from Bangun and the Japanese gang led by Goto (Ken’ichi Endo). That’s about as concise as you can get to know the story without ruining the fun. The story isn’t caged within an old building like its predecessor, and it’s the best part of the whole package: instead of repeating the old formula, Evans takes pieces from Hong Kong crime thrillers like Hard Boiled and Infernal Affairs and made it distinctively Indonesian (or, probably, Jakartan). Scenes between Uco seeking affirmation from his father to run the business are genuinely touching and tense, thanks to the immersive talent of Arifin Putra transforming his character from a spoiled brat to a shotgun-toting menace as the film goes. He is a proof that acting in FTVs and sinetrons doesn’t necessarily corrupt your capabilities as an actor, and that we’ve got a ready stock of actors and actresses ready to up their ante from cheesy TV dramas.

One noticeable comment from the audience is how the roads were so empty to provide a comfortably crazy car chase scene, notably the SCBD and Blok M areas. Or how a murder rampage could happen in a train usually packed with people at weekdays. Of course, it’s tolerable and it should be, because it’s not Jakarta, it’s fictionalized Jakarta. Vehicular manslaughter between rival crime syndicates don’t happen daily either in Los Angeles, but people are already so used to it thanks to numerous Hollywood action blockbusters. In that case, you better get ready, because Jakarta and maybe even Medan, Balikpapan or Bandung will be witnesses to epic car chases in future movies (crossing fingers). Who knows? If anything, the weakest link of the whole package is the two-dimensional characterization of Rama, who seems to be nothing more than a pawn in the huge game of killing — that somehow gets the closure through the usual blood spillage, because he’s still the biggest face in the movie poster.

Berandal fight scene

Oh, and the snow scene. It’s not much of a plothole. There is nothing better to demonstrate the visionary ideas of Gareth Evans than the dramatic killing under the falling snow in front of noodle carts that boggles the thousand minds of the audience: 99.999% of Indonesians (except those that have been to Mt. Jaya in the eastern end of the country) have never experienced snow anywhere within the borders of Indonesia. Snow is an alien thing because it’s a goddamn tropical country. However, I didn’t believe the scene was included without reason, and fortunately at the screening I was on, Mr. Evans himself was present for a little Q&A session. According to the man himself, (a bit paraphrasing here) he intended to create an allusion that Bejo’s presence in various scenes is associated with temperature drops. It’s also the reason why Uco’s breath was visible when he took a phonecall from Bejo, as if it were freezing in the karaoke. But then he said beforehand that it was the ‘bullshit’ version and the real version is simply because blood just looks fucking good on snow, so there’s that. Can’t argue with that, Gareth. I’d say it’s more of a metaphorical choice, demonstrating the overwhelming presence of the rising gangster in town that it even created an impossible situation that anyone haven’t ever encountered before in Jakarta.

That kind of potentially fourth-wall-breaking anomaly is also ultimately a show of transcendence of The Raid 2: Berandal, from movie as an art form, into excessive violence, into an art form again. The fight scenes are almost poetic, like the ones with Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man (never thought Julie Estelle could break off her typecast), and especially the last true-to-form silat battle with a gamelan ambient in the background. The movie as a whole is a testament that Gareth Evans is a well-versed filmmaker that incorporates influence from many other auteurs before him, something that many Indonesian filmmakers could learn from. The train fight scene (and other Hammer Girl scenes) will evoke memories of Park Chan-wook’s legendary Oldboy, and strong use of wallpaper patterns is reminiscent of A Tale of Two Sisters (Kim Ji-woon) and Lady Vengeance (Chan-wook). Even the familial clash takes a bit from Godfather as many other gangster movies that follow. Excessive as it is, this action movie staple is already a memorable piece of Indonesian movie history, and hopefully nudges a right direction in the future of Indonesian cinema.

31. March 2014 by Kevin Aditya
Categories: Movies | Leave a comment

Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive

When was the last time you watched a movie that feels like an extensive music video? Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive stretches the definition of “stylish” several ways, most visibly through the set-up: rooms full of recording equipment in the dark, brooding house of Adam (Tom Hiddleston) that seemingly lies in bumfuck nowhere. Adapting the vintage look of rock stars two decades past, Adam actually delves more into post-rock sound with e-bows and ambient touch — definitely the current accepted style of the sonically cool. It’s weird to notice the modernity of Adam, though, since he is really a centuries-old vampire. They wouldn’t let go of this fact, particularly through his lover Eve (Tilda Swinton), who would bother Adam every 2 seconds with questions like how was your summer with Shelley and Byron several decades ago? Seems like the only people worth remembering for vampires are those drowning in fame, and literary classics. Yet, in another word, it’s probably exactly what you will do when you are several hundred years old with nothing better to do than avoiding sunlight and sipping blood from fancy cups every other day. A slice-of-life crossed with the vampire genre. A stylishly depressing journey through the literally dark Detroit, since they are only active at night. Only Lovers Left Alive is an arthouse-spirited counterpart to the Hollywood action flicks — a story that acknowledges its aridity and chooses to jazz up the style instead.

30. March 2014 by Kevin Aditya
Categories: Movies | Leave a comment

Luna Papa

Luna Papa

Films that are all whimsical and full of colors usually refrain from being more than anything that is not whimsical and full of colors. The characters are pretty, problems are dreamy, and antagonists are cartoonishly evil. But sometimes, a film will put down its legs from the clouds into the firm ground of reality — and somehow also managed to keep its head in between the rainbows. Luna Papa is one of these rarities.

Many might be familiar with the atmosphere in Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov’s Luna Papa (1999), which finds itself in the midst of the Post-Soviet Central Asia that is not unlike the Eastern Europe, a land full of rocky terrains but always never devoid of colors. Embodying the visual spirit of Paradjanov but without delving into the world of vague, the film puts clear definition in its characters: Mamlakat is a quirky girl with big desire to get into acting, but she is stuck in her nowhereville with her brother Nasreddin who is off his mind (seemingly due to post-war trauma), and his eccentric father who breeds rabbit for their living. Nonetheless, Mamlakat is always happy — or at least goes through her days with an adorable level of airheadedness, an important character trait that drives much of the plot. When a theater company passes by her village, she tries to catch up to them without much luck, only to find herself knocked up months later with a mysterious man’s baby from the theater company that has gone elsewhere. Thus, the journey of the lovable family to find her child’s father begins in the land where onerous landscape meets armed legions.

Did I say armed legions? Yes, you might never encounter soldiers wielding assault rifles in a Parajanov movie, but this is Central Asia slash Middle East where people are rough and war is rampant. A glimpse of soldiers is shown here and there, and villagers don’t hesitate to show their rough edges to each other (maybe it’s just how things are in the Central Asia). Yet, what is more prominent is that Khudojnazarov didn’t choose to explore too deep into the grim reality, and instead put Mamlakat and her family in a lightheaded mess of a place that often swerve into comedy. Luna Papa never exactly puts a pin in the map for Mamlakat’s house, but the influence in the setting range from the war in Tajikistan to people delivering goods from a boat as in Kazakhstan. As the story goes, the family jumps into more and more surreal incidents like hotel residents being kidnapped, actors angered into throwing metal shield to the audience, and even animal falling from the sky. None of this are more magical than the fact that these accidents aren’t magical at all — everything is just a reaction of an action. Almost everything, at least. Best advice is to sit back and enjoy things as they happen.

Luna Papa 2

Among the most enjoyable parts of the film is the stellar Chulpan Khamatova as the protagonist Mamlakat, a girl with the air of typical French movie characters who always follow their instinct without the least care in the world. The only difference is that Mamlakat isn’t living in a first world country where going places is easy and there are actually pavements for pedestrians. Mamlakat’s dream of being an actress is a glimmer of hope for a better living, but it doesn’t mean she dwell in misery in her current condition. Though at times she appeared naive, but it’s actually her optimism that is an exact opposite embodiment of naivety: she knows full well of the consequences of her actions, and she goes through great lengths to make the best out of it. Along with her brother Nasreddin and her loving father, the story of a family finding the mystical “Moon Father” is a gem of a film that wears its heart on the sleeve and isn’t afraid to rip it apart, because sometimes absurdity is simply a part of the daily life.

17. March 2014 by Kevin Aditya
Categories: Movies, Uncategorized | 2 comments

Tea time for one

Garden of Words

“We are what we are,” says J, sipping his tea without daring to give a look at his companion’s face. “Yes, I suppose. But what can you do when life doesn’t give you options?” L’s face darkened after he uttered that last word. Options. A word so out of reach, yet it never actually go anywhere. A word of possibilities. L knows this. He knows what this man will be saying next. “You do have them,” J says with a confident smirk, “and it’s up to you to embrace it. In fact, it’s also up to you to not embrace it. Options fly by every other day or so and sometimes you need to extend your hand far enough to —”

“Shut up.” J’s train of thought crumbles just as he is getting to his mate’s head. The rain outside is enough to keep a perfect shade of light he prefers, a similar one to the light currently inside his head. “I don’t need to hear that for the umpteenth time. You can mumble on about quantum possibilities in alternate dimensions for all I care.” L’s gaze is fading away into the metaphorical thousand yards inside of his mind, but J won’t feel content with letting him go anywhere. “Yes, I can, and I will. You were going on a fast train when you decided to slump yourself on a damp corner and curl your once happy little mind into submission. You don’t even realize you’re there. Not without me pointing these little trivial facts to your face.”

That tickles, J. I don’t remember you being the kind to say these things, but maybe nobody would bother anyway…

L snaps off his slight daydream once again. “I should have a — umm — enough reason to pick the gun.” Pick the gun. Never thought he could be so literal. J stops for a moment, looking for the tiny bit of hope hidden behind L’s eyes. “You never operate within reasons, mate. You just do.” Somehow this ticks off L — “And look now what ‘just doing’ has brought me! Off your shiny-ass fast train, in your words.” the seat takes a push of hand as L moves his bum for comfort. J picks up from where he left off, “You didn’t just do. You actually make a decent effort to get by, and the effort’s what really counts.” That kind of response never satisfy L. “Did you mean I should get a medal for trying, or what? I don’t see anyone going anywhere soon, except maybe you. Never the type to stay in one place for more than a week, right?” J smirks. “That’s silly. I don’t go anywhere, just as much as you do. We only differ in what we see.” “Huh? Haha, what kind of a statement is that?” L laughs in disbelief, as if J has eaten an innocent kitten alive. “I mean, our point of view differ in a way. I prefer to see the opportunity within the moment, while you seek dormancy. Neither is right or wrong, as often your silence is gold, but it’s just how we are.

“Have constraint and live within your means, not above, not below. I mean it. Not below. Going below will only stop you. Do what you need to do. I can only be here for so long, after all.” L’s wandering eyes jolt back to J. He starts swallowing J’s words. “And if I fail?” J lets out a short laugh. “You won’t! The worst that will be is just you’re not doing good enough. But it’s okay, learn to live with it. Everybody lives with it, otherwise nobody is good enough. Besides, you can’t go wrong… with a fully-loaded gun.”

J slides the revolver across the table onto L’s lap. The sound of metal sliding fortunately didn’t attract enough attention for nearby diners to check on them and choke on their food and run. Hesitant, L gets a grip of the gun. “You’re really doing this, aren’t you?” Recognizing L’s doubt, J smiles. “It’s simple. You will become me, end of story. You’re not doing this is not because of me, but because you’re not letting go of yourself.” His eyes widen. “Such kind words,” L mutters sarcastically, “aren’t you too afraid of going?”

“Where am I going?” J asks the rhetorical question. “I am not going. You become me. We become I. I need this as much as you do. So do it.”

L pulls the trigger. Only this time the bullet does not pierce his head in nanoseconds, it lies there, growing, not measured in moments but in days, weeks, months. The bullet never comes through. The bullet becomes him.

03. March 2014 by Kevin Aditya
Categories: Uncategorized | 2 comments

End of day

A few hours until midnight. 2013 will soon be no more. Make the most of your time, they said. Well, where were you when you last said that to yourself? Did you clean up your room? Did you go somewhere? Did you learn something? It was easy to answer these questions, it is way harder to admit them. Many things change, of course, yet you learn annually that what matters was whether the void inside you is shifting. Yet you never remember. To repeat yourself is either a doom or a divine intervention or a little bit of both. One day I was there, bathing under the vertical ray of the morning sun, but my thoughts are elsewhere, they always are. It wasn’t until the day I need to pull my conscience back down to earth that I knew that nature is ephemeral, but you are eternal. Everything doomed to perish but you. I am like an open book, but you are no less an open book than an empty one. A blank slate. Every year you tried to write , scribble, erase, make grids, until pages are no more blank but still don’t imply meanings. You walk past the years, and you learn to improve and appreciate, but in the end you just learn to learn.

31. December 2013 by Kevin Aditya
Categories: Personal | Leave a comment


Like Someone in Love

The young woman stares into the night in the back seat of a cab somewhere in Tokyo, listening through tons of voicemails from her grandma who came to visit her for the day but she is yet to meet her at nearly 11 pm — and she doesn’t seem willing to. Grandma left a voicemail from earlier that morning telling that she’s arrived at the station waiting for her at an easily noticeable place. Another voicemail to tell that she’s still waiting after a few hours have passed and hoping to have a lunch with her. Deep into the night, she keeps listening through them as the cab sways through traffic — another clip of grandma’s frail voice from a few hours ago telling she have already eaten by herself and now back to the place still waiting for her. And it goes on and on, right until her grandma has to catch the train back home without being able to catch a glimpse of her granddaughter. The young woman is still with her dead eyes that now begin to water. She asks to pass the station to see if grandma is still there. Indeed, the unfortunate lady is looking around in hesitation for her beloved granddaughter under a landmark statue. The young woman asks the driver to go another round to have the second chance of seeing her grandma from behind the car window. She tries to look indifferent yet she wipes her tears, but not once does she ask the cab driver to stop.

This early scene in Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone In Love is quite possibly the most heartwrenching moment I’ve ever witnessed in cinema.

Kiarostami is without a doubt a veteran, highly acclaimed director, but the scene’s moving catharsis goes beyond great direction alone. Anything involving the elderly is bound to touch our heart one way or another: the careful steps of their frail limbs, the hope of seeing their grandchildren, the mourning of fellow elderly friend’s passing, the forgetfulness that slowly chips away their mind. Being old is commonly associated with wisdom, yet for the younger generation, old age is often associated with fear — not because their wrinkled skin are scary, but because it represents a possibility of a lost hope. In facing growing old, we have two common fears: the thought of deteriorating physique until the point of death, and the thought of having virtually lost any chance to do anything outside the limitation of the body, money, and responsibilities. Through the eyes of Akiko, played by Rin Takanashi, we explore a few things regarding her relationship with her grandma: that she is in Tokyo for studying but turned into a high class prostitute instead, that grandma is taking care of grandpa back in their hometown, that Akiko is not ready to face her and possibly tell the truth because — most importantly — her grandma trusts her sincerely in being a good granddaughter in a big city. She would rather not meet her grandma than having to lie to her. It’s an entirely different level of honesty. It is not that old people are fragile enough that small confessions will break them completely, it’s that they actually have lived long enough to see what life has to offer, and to learn from missteps that they have done. If anything, they would want their descendants to have a better life than they do. This turns into expectations, and as many other granddaughters would do, Akiko would certainly not see her grandma’s expectations crumble into pieces. The whole movie basically runs around these ideas — a “micromanagement” approach into small conflicts in our daily life rather than big extraordinary storyline. Then, the scene alone seeks to inquire about our devout sentimentality with the elderly: do we relate our actions to the old people out of fear of one day becoming them, or out of respect of everything that they’ve been through?

23. November 2013 by Kevin Aditya
Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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