More creepy goodness from Indonesia, this time out your Favorite Catgirl has for you “Pintu Terlarang” aka “The Forbidden Door” by Indonesian director Joko Anwar who also did the quirky neo film-noir/ horror/ hard boiled detective mash up “Kala” aka “Dead Time” back in 2007. Having seen that one, I was struck by it’s oddness and great sense of imagery….. and I can tell you he’s back in fine form with this one as well.
Our synopsis goes: “The life of a successful sculptor (played by Fachri Albar) is turned upside down when he begins receiving mysterious messages from somebody who’s asking for his help.
When he stumbles upon an illegal TV broadcast which offers snuff, he finds out that the person who’s trying to reach him is a 7 year-old boy who has been kept and abused by a vicious couple. As he digs more, he discovers that his wife (played by Marsha Timothy) just might be connected to the whole mystery. Soon he has to decide whether or not to abandon his search and leave the boy to die or to lose everything and everyone he knows.”
This one is definitely strange…. and that’s something coming from this movie lovin’ girl…. Given my tastes in movies, I’ve certainly seen some strange films over the years, but very few that take the idea of such deliberate quirkiness and make it their own.
So what’s the story on this one? Well… by now you know it’s time to “Read On”… so let’s get to it!!
If you’ve been lucky enough to encounter director Joko Anwar’s earlier film, “Kala”, then you already know he has a very unique vision that he imbues his films with….. Just when you think you are watching one type of film he often changes gears on you… takes his film in an entirely different direction and then ends up someplace odd and nowhere where you thought it might go. His films share an equal measure of the gritty feeling of old film-noir films with elements of the sort of suspense and plot bits of classic Hitchcock movies bundled together with some of the downright weird imagery of David Lynch and a little of the psychological notions of David Cronenberg’s work. Wrap it all in with a soundtrack dominated by cool 50’s style jazz and a very distinctly Indonesian feeling story and you got one very different sort of movie….. Oh yes, indeed…
We start this one out by getting a quick introduction to the main character Gambir (played by Fachri Albar), a successful sculptor whose recent series of works featuring pregnant women has become all the rage in the local art scene. He’s seemingly got it all…. a successful career, his sexy, super smart, yet loving wife Talyda (played by Marsha Timothy), and is the envy of all his close friends and acquaintances. What more could a man want from life? But…. first appearances can be deceiving…. and therein lies our story.
Gambir, you see, is being haunted….. both by a secret guilt about the secret abortion of he and Talyda’s first baby, and by a strange recurring message that seems meant especially for him and that follows him everywhere…. “Help Me!!”…. Are these things really connected? Well…. it seems Gambir and Talyda made the big mistake of getting intimate a wee bit too early in their relationship, and no quick marriage would ever fool anyone into believing they hadn’t had sex before marriage….. and we all know how much that’s a no-no in Indonesia…. Sure it was easy to arrange a secret abortion, but Talyda loses it and the only way for Gambir to calm her down is to promise to hide the fetus inside one of his statues. Naturally, doing that somehow makes the statue soooo much better so pretty soon Gambir is forced to buy more aborted babies from the clinic to fill all his statues and give them that certain “something” too…… Ewwwwhhh!!! Yep, it’s a pretty gross notion, and this had me thinking we were headed for the Indonesian equivalent of the “pontinak” legend going on here. You know…. where keeping the ghosts of unborn children brings good luck and wealth to the person who controls them…. (Nope, that’s certainly a neat idea, but that’s just toooo easy for this film…. and I wasted a lot of time on this idea while things got even stranger…)
The messages…. they beg… they plead…. and poor Gambir finds them absolutely everywhere…. Couple this with the stress of keeping his mom at bay while she constantly plots and schemes to find some way for him and Talyda to finally overcome “his” little problem and have a child…. Grrrr!!! So annoying!! If only he could tell her it’s actually the result of the abortion, but nope… Gambir can’t do that of course…. Sigh. Then the film throws yet another weird curve at us. He decides that the whole business of making the same statues over and over…. and the loathsome secret within each and every one of them is just too much to bear any longer. He tells his “friend” and owner of the gallery that sells his stuff that his new show will go an entirely different direction only to have “Uncle” Jimmy tell him he accidentally broke one of the statues…. and he knows the secret too. Worse… he makes a thinly veiled threat to expose Gambir unless he keeps right on making those statues…. and keeps making him the money they bring in. Think that’s bad enough? Then it gets worse….
While working in his basement studio, a tool he throws away in anger rolls under a cabinet and when he moves it, he finds a strange door…. completely unknown to him and locked with a formidable padlock. How could such a thing exist in a brand new house built especially for him by his wife’s father? More importantly…. what does it hide? Before he can break in and find out, Talyda arrives…. begging him never to open that door or ask her what she has locked away inside. He’s confused and a bit frightened, but he loves her and ultimately agrees to never open the door or ever ask her about it again….. so long as she lives. Now you know this can’t be good……
As if poor Gambir doesn’t have enough misery on his plate to deal with… the pleading messages continue. Eventually they lead him to a mysterious club somewhere in a wealthy section of Jakarta that Gambir figures is the front for the human trafficking ring that must have snatched the boy he keeps seeing in his hallucinations and dreams. He can’t get in… until he finds out his best friend is a secret member of the club, and after beating his friend up a bit gets him to sponsor Gambir for membership…. He then discovers the club itself is actually a place where the bored and the wealthy can sate their sick, voyeuristic need to see the underside of life by watching secret cameras hidden about the city. Hidden everywhere, they show everything from deviant sex, prison rape, an insane woman who spends her days sewing her hand to a blanket, and finally….. a young boy who is slowly being beaten to death by his mother and father in a seedy apartment. It’s the boy who Gambir knows has been sending those messages…. and he grows more and more frantically desperate to find him and save him before it’s too late.
But before you think that’s all this one has to throw at us… it’s time for me to give you my “SPOILER ALERT”…. ’cause this one is still got some crazy stuff coming, and trust me, you might definitely want to see it for yourself.
The story spirals down and down….. and just when you think Gambir is going to redeem himself and save the boy…. well…. ummm… he doesn’t. Nope…. instead he gets to watch the TV at the club helplessly as the boy finally cracks and takes a big ol’ kitchen knife one night to slit the throats of both his tormentors and then to himself in a single act of self destructive misery in the face of a seemingly uncaring world. So that’s it….. right? Wrong.
While weeping and broken over the boys death, Gambir sees the program on the floor, listing all the channels available to members at the club, and to his horror, one of those channels has his wife name listed!! Almost in shock he can’t not turn to that channel…. only to see his very own house and his mother and wife discussing how Talyda is going to have to seduce both his best friends if she’s ever going to conceive a child….. and then the footage of both those illicit adulteries. Gambir snaps….. and then goes cold as he decides to end his pain in the only way possible left to him.
So he plans a festive Christmas dinner….. for himself and Talyda, his mother, “Uncle Jimmy” and both his “dear” friends….. a dinner they’ll never…. ever… forget. Add a revolver…. a big ol’ carving knife, and enough paralytic poison to keep all his victims awake but unable to move a muscle and Gambir is set to finally dish out some just deserts to his loved ones. We get enough gooey arterial spray to fill two Indonesian films here….. and then, lest we forget…. we get to see what’s hidden in back of that door in the basement…..
Time for one last crazy shift…… seems that the door is to that seedy apartment, where the little boy and his parents lie dead in pools of blood. Say what?? Not only that…. but the boy’s mother, whose face has always been conveniently just out of frame throughout…. is that of his very own mother!!! Huh?!? The world spinning insanely around him, Gambir is finally revealed to be locked within the padded room of an asylum….. having been that very same little boy who murdered his parents as a child, and who has been trapped within the hell of his own mind ever since…. All the characters are just people from the asylum….. warped and trapped in the same hallucinations that constantly run again and again through his shattered psyche. Or….. has he? A final scene shows a man entering a church to give confession…. he’s killed his wife you see…. and the priest that takes that confession? Why it’s Gambir…. who sends the man home with the stern warning never to open the “secret door”…….
Hmmmm…. yep, now this one certainly kept me guessing…. and it’s filled with lots and lots of things that just keep percolating through your head. Neko liked this one…. and for an Indonesian film, it’s most certainly a class act, with good acting, excellent cinematography, script and direction. The Indonesian “Special Edition DVD” comes with lots of extras on board and has excellent English subtitles as well. So….. if quirky films are your thing, and you like something that’s going to stay with you long after the credits have rolled, then “Pintu Terlarang” might just be for you. I give this one a well deserved 4 “Meows” out of 5…. with plenty of purrs of contentment for the odd little touches here and there throughout and the downright unique style it possesses. If you haven’t seen this one yet…. go for it. (Psssst!! If you reeeaally like it…. then by all means go ahead and hunt down a copy of “Kala” as well….. you won’t be sorry!)
Yep… we’ve got a Trailer… and here it is!