“Belenggu” is a 8-year-old dream. Upi Avianto, best known as just Upi, is the auteur-director that keeps her dream in her only mind before she got the chance to make it real. Actually, I always love seeing movies like “Belenggu” currently showing in our local cinemas. See, it is very rare seeing such kind of smart thriller movie in Indonesia—maybe it takes at least a year to see another movie like this—and that’s why I welcomed “Belenggu” so much. Despite the fact that the movie itself was not that mind-blowing, still I have this wow feeling after watching it.
Actually, the less you know about the movie, the better. And I found it’s a little bit difficult to tell you a suitable synopsis of “Belenggu”, except that it is about murder and psychological stuffs. Elang (played by Abimana Aryasatya) is a loner man working in a night club as a bartender. He always has a similar dream of a murderer in a big, white bunny suit riding on a car with him, two dead bodies, and a woman he later finds out named Jingga (played by Imelda Therinne). While there’s a rumor about an unknown murderer spreading around the town people, Elang knows he has to find out the truth that keeps reminding him to his nightmares and save his neighbor, Djenar (played by Laudya Chintya Bella) and her daughter, from death.
My first impression about “Belenggu” is there are many metaphore, symbolistic-kinda stuffs filled around this movie. The low-key coloring and symmetrical composition were two mostly notable things I got from my first see. There is a sense of noir aesthetics, and the very least clues about when and where the story takes place could either make viewers confused or focus to only the story. Upi tries not to talk much about this, as she tells us whenever and wherever the story happens, it doesn’t matter. Actually it gives me a feel of half-heartedness, although in the other side, I can’t figure out how this grandiose and stilted murder plot and mind game can even have a sense of reality in this world. And the many layer twists in “Belenggu” is truly an achievement—I guess there are no any Indonesian flicks have done the same. Viewers with a taste of brainy story will be unexpectedly satisfied, and the other average viewers will still easily be surprised with every minute of the movie. It is not an easy-to-predict story, and although it will be lovely to discuss if there are some plot holes in “Belenggu”, we will likely get entertained and “be tricked” instead of keeping questioning. It’s because Upi composed the story in a nice and tidy structure, making the whole plot seems make sense although I’m still wondering if there’s something missing from it. From the style it used, some movie-buff will see some correlations between “Belenggu” and some other foreign movies, especially the ones from David Lynch (“Twin Peaks”, “Lost Highway”, “Mulholland Dr.”; the bunny suit is inspired by “Donnie Darko”?—but “Donnie Darko” is not David Lynch’s), but since I don’t have a vast experience about it, I didn’t collect any specific cues akin to those in “Belenggu”.
“Belenggu” has a nice ensemble. The story evolves from one character to many other characters, so it won’t be a single-character-ed movie. This is what I’m gonna say: Abimana is awesome! Man, he did a great job portraying Elang with all his bizarre dreams and imagination-to-reality blur. He showed fragility, unfocusness, and hidden strength that makes him seems both pathetic and terrifying. There are many characters, let’s say “crazy characters”, in many other movies that somehow seem unnatural and forced. In “Belenggu”, he did know that “craziness” is not always similar to “awkwardness” and “brutality”. He looks cool even in a very random mind condition. Sometimes what he showed is a bit overt to the whole story, but luckily, “Belenggu” has many other actors with performances you shouldn’t miss. Imelda Therinne as Jingga blends emotional but mysterious characterization into a simple but awkward chemistry to Elang, although in some parts, her dialogues were a little bit unnatural. Laudya Chintya Bella unexpectedly played a non-significant amount of duration (at least compared to how she was showed in the movie poster), but she still stole my attention with her calmness. The other actors are great (and I don’t think I’m gonna mention them one by one). The main lack from them is the way they transferred the dialogue: it’s either they could not read their lines more naturally or the dialogue itself that didn’t come up straight into my ears. A bit over, actually. The score was so supportive, while the cinematography, camera movement, and lighting were maximally used, giving “Belenggu” a sense of dream-like just like the story itself.
Actually I don’t like this feel of turgid in “Belenggu”, but however it seems like an imagination that don’t land on ground, “Belenggu” is still an achievement. Very tidy, very cinematographic, very surprising. A brain twister that goes beyond your expectation, and if you think something like “it’s just a local movie, not a Hollywood-made” whatsoever, you SHOULD think again. Again, it’s a fresh air that blows to our local cinema industry. We should have more like this.
▲ Multi-layered twist, tidy and cinematic presentation, Abimana's performance
▼ A bit "over" with the less clue about time and place setting, unnatural dialogue
BELENGGU | COUNTRY Indonesia YEAR 2013 RATING 17+ RUNTIME 100 min GENRE Horror, Thriller CAST Abimana Aryasatya, Imelda Therinne, Laudya Chintya Bella, Verdi Solaiman, Jajang C. Noer WRITER Upi DIRECTOR Upi MORE INFO