Film Review: Fiksi

BOTTOM LINE: Thriller about a murderous case of writer's block is structurally like a half-finished book.

Pusan International Film Festival
A Window on Asian Cinema

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"Fiksi," which means "fiction" in Indonesian, gingerly explores and blurs the borders between reality and fiction through a mentally disturbed woman's involvement with a writer who wants to turn real-life stories happening in his residential block into a novel. Joko Anwar's potentially intriguing and cinema-savvy script is compromised by the inexperienced direction of Mouly Surya, who fails to align action with motive and mistakes mood for meaning.

Had the film realized its promise to be an erotic Freudian noir mystery, it could have earned a place in the niche genre DVD market. However, with its average technical and artistic quality, it is lucky if it gets chosen to fill the Asian quota at festivals.

Alisha (Ladya Cheryl) is a sexually repressed rich girl haunted by visions of her dead mother. When she spots Bari (Donny Alamsyah), the hunky part-time pool cleaner, from her window, she moves into an empty apartment next to his and starts to eavesdrop on his sex life.

Bari, who is a struggling writer, tells Alisha that he has incorporated the hidden stories of occupants in their tenement into his novel but doesn't know how to write the end. Alisha decides to help him finish his book, and that is when a series of inexplicable accidents break out.

The director claimed that she wanted to make "Fiksi" as a kind of adult re-invention of "Alice in Wonderland," and hence the motif of rabbit figurines. She certainly leads the audience into a warren of overlapping plots (all weirdly fascinating in their own right), but her time sequences are jumbled and the pace is too laid back for a suspense thriller.

Possibly, "Barton Fink" serves as a model for "Fiksi's" evocation of a building peopled by strange inhabitants, and whose fantasmagoric ambience makes the writer-protagonist lose a sense of reality. Some arty shots of the dingy building with its labyrinthine stairs and dark corridors succeed in conveying this mood. The ambiguous ending tries to subsume all plot and character improbabilities into a "is it real or imagined?" conceit, but it only makes the audience feel cheated.

Cast: Ladya Cheryl, Donny Alamsyah, Kinaryosih, Inong.
Director/screenwriter/based on the story by: Mouly Surya.
Producers: Parama Wirasmo, Tia Hasibuan, Sapto Soetarjo.
Director of photography: Yunus Pasolang.
Production designers: Eros Eflin, Vida Sylvia.
Music: Zeke Khaseli.
Costume designer: Meutias S. Pudjowarsito.
Editor: Muhammad Ichsan.
No rating, 110 minutes.
Production: Cinesurya.
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