so here we go;
Watching an Indonesian Film in the Cinema, is like playing Russian Roulette with a cheap Potato gun; it doesn't hurt that much, let alone kill, but it keeps hitting on that same darned spot & it'll definitely leave a traumatic albeit small-but-plenty bruise marks.
While movie production has been going steadily if not rapidly in the country, Its no secret that quick-to-be-rich scheming producers has been churning out films that will make Deep space Nine seems like Fellini's 8 1/2 by comparison. Capitalizing on cheap shot-with-video production filled with hopeful yet untrained Soapie stars that barely grow breasts, shooting it faster than you could say "Roger Corman" and then slap the finished products with misleading titles and posters that looks like its been photoshoped by the producer's clueless but hopeful secretary, you know the types; little small town Betsy with the "Can Do" attitude.
OK, that was a brief history of Indonesia's current Industry's situation, sad but almost true, hence its no surprise that the arrival of natural born rebel filmmaker like Joko Anwar into the whithering local industry feels like a much needed dope injection of fresh cinematic foray. One thing that cannot be denied; the man definitely masters and inhabits an extremely eclectic artistic prowess; after the highly entertaining Joni's Promise, Joko took a drastic turn with his sophomore piece, and needless to say, it does not disappoint.
KALA starts with what seems to be an allegory to Indonesia's current condition, chaotic, bleak, and ticking like a time bomb, the fictional country governed by faceless powers that created a nation filled with zombified residents.
After a series of trepidation for things to come, we are introduced to the two main protagonist of the film; (playing Greek-Gods allegory here with the two names) Eros the jaded beefy cop,not without his unshaken sense of justice. And then there's Janus; the scruffy, doe-eyed journalist. Janus is riddled with marriage and career problems, what's a guy to do? He's suffers from chronic Narcolepsy. These two will carry the bulk of the story like a tasty blend of Dashiel Hammet's characters.
Though the two didn't know each other, the story soon unravels its wheels of happenstance that would connect the two and the role they soon play.
Through a series of unexplained deaths and freak occurrences, begins a surreal journey that would reveal that Janus and Eros's destiny might hold a bigger part in the country's future, the key to the mystery they are trying to solve lies within the existence of a beautiful mysterious bar croon-stress Ranti, adding creep factor to the plot is a pale ghostly rastafarian like figure in adult diaper, and the fact that whenever rasta man appears, head starts to roll.
KALA is such of a film where aside from the two main protagonists, everyone else seems to have their own hidden agenda, after all the main plot device is really about the legendary "Treasure" hidden by the first president. This again, really effectively reflects the harsh reality of Indonesia's heated "grey area" circumstances, intended or not. This is only Joko Anwar's second film but already he choose to take a drastic direction, visual or narrative wise, compared to the high energy, lush with urbane colors that filled Joni's promise, KALA is painted bleak and moody, asserting moldy and broken down exteriors of a city that has seen better days, suppressed color palettes that spells doom and hopelessness, the dialogue within the film keeps to the minimal level, reminiscing of Noir classics, uttered by tough rain coated jaded men and cynical femme fatales under thick layers of smoke and shadows. Just witnessing above, I personally can hardly wait what approach does Joko have in store for his next project.
The acting here ranges from great to decent, Fachri Albar is especially good as the narcoleptic bumbler, never fully comprehending the mysterious happenings around him, Albar's nervous twitch and hunched awkward demeanor really makes a convincing delivery. Then we have Eros, played by the vigorous Ario Bayu, channeling a much younger Morgan Freeman in SE7EN, his youthful look smolders with ravaged confliction and wise beyond age vibe. Towering Model Fahrani plays Ranti, the smoky voiced bar singer pleasant to look at even from her first appearance and by the time KALA's revelation reveals who she really is, you'll be cheering her entrance in the final scene, man is she hot.
Other memorable performances includes pop star Shanty as Janus's wife with flexible loyalty, Arswendi Nasution plays an effective greasy corrupt official complete with a villainy pony tail, and lets not forget August Melasz & Frans Tumbuan; two senior actors playing two types of lawmen, the good and the bad respectively.
The music in KALA is another thing worth noting, a crazy cryptic combination of Indie progeny Zeke Khaselli's trippy vocal and Aghy Narottama brash composition evokes melodies from a fairy tale-ish town that we thought only to be heard in tale-telling songs, only here, the music supports the town that inhabits KALA.
Tethered to the bone with criticism towards the powers that be, KALA never borders to overly political, as a film itself, it holds firmly in its main goal; to entertain. Although some would argue that its theme and pace might be an acquired taste, however for those who have the patience, the wait is worth the trip; like a juiced up mixture of Fritz Lang head butting Shaymalan and Jeunnet, KALA turns out to be one sparkly cocktail that does not leave a hangover.