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Little Lana was 3 years old when she was abandoned alone in the zoo. Raised by a giraffe trainer, the zoo is the only world she knows. Until one day, a charming magician arrives and Lana finds her love, for she is ready to leave the zoo. Lana embarks on journey, until one day, she decided to go back to the place where she was abandoned. Written by
This hard to categorise curio from Indonesia starts as a story about a little girl called Lana who was abandoned at a zoo and has spent all her life living there amongst zoo workers, assorted homeless people and, of course, the animals.
At first, it plays as a cross between documentary and surrealist fantasy. The everyday activities at the zoo are accompanied by narration which ruminates on the lifestyles of different animals, including humans "who come to look" and humans "who don't want to be seen". Title cards flash up every so often with definitions of conservation phrases such "endemic", "ex-situ" and "re-introduction". These take on new meaning in the second half, where the story moves into much darker territory. Lana, now grown up, falls for an enigmatic magician dressed as a cowboy. Their romance takes her out of the zoo for the first time and leads her to the brothel where she was abandoned at the age of 3. She is taken in and taught the art of entertaining clients, especially how to keep them interested for long enough that they book extra sessions. Scenes of animals being tended to and visitors watching them are juxtaposed with the pampering rituals in the massage parlour and men viewing girls through a spy hole. The meaning is clear, we are all trapped in a zoo of some kind.
Lana's graceful demeanour and inner strength give her a special affinity with the zoo's lone giraffe, who we learn much about. Other scene stealing animals include a hippo having its teeth cleaned, and, outside of the zoo, the bizarre spectacle of a tame monkey wearing mask made out of a dolls head.
The ethereal cinematography and ponderous pacing lend the film a dreamlike, otherworldly quality, as we the audience observe the natural phenomena of childlike wonder giving way to the "adapt or die" realities of adulthood.
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