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)
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