'ISENG' The Urban Tales
Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak
The Jakarta Post
Inspired by true events in crime-infested Jakarta, Iseng is a star-studded film. It's not pretentious.
In contrast to its title, the Absolute Pictures film takes on the ugly face of urban issues ' extramarital affairs, prostitution, drugs, thuggery and loneliness.
The word iseng itself can be used in different context. It could mean 'doing something when there is nothing better to do' ' or, when there actually is, being mischievous or annoying or just being thoughtless.
An English synonym of the word is recklessness, a damning factor in legal prosecution that is less strong than an intention but more incriminating compared to criminal negligence when trying to prove if someone is guilty of a crime.
The last description perfectly suits the premise of a story, which revolves around three simultaneous homicides taking place in the heart of the city.
The true events from which the film was inspired made headlines.
It starts with a police investigation into the death of a woman in her apartment on a Saturday night, where rookie detective Ludi (Donny Alamsyah) jumps into a premature theory full of gaping holes which his commander (Donny Damara) is soon to catch, although he'd rather leave the crime scene as he had expected to attend a party.
The next scene is a flashback to where Irwan (Tio Pakusadewo) had, earlier in the day, talked on the phone with Baby (Viola Arsa) who wants him to marry her, as advised by her former pimp Ola (Siti Badriah), after divorcing his wife.
As the conversation ends, Irwan orders his driver Edi (Yayan Ruhian) to expedite the plan to get rid of Baby with the help of three thugs Joni (Zuli Silawanto), Atif (Khiva Iskak) and Arifin (Fandy Christian).
In another part of the city, a lesbian couple (Frida Tumakaka and Ayu Shita) quarrel. Jo (Frida) takes the advice given by her employer, restaurant owner Helen (Dayu Wiyanto), to forget her past love and to look for another one.
While table waitress Jo flirts with Irwan's employee Chica (Eveline Kurniadi), despite being frowned upon by Irwan's secretary Fany (Wulan Guritno), the restaurant cook Denis (Kho Michael) is given a hard time by Helen for slipping out of the kitchen too frequently.
Meanwhile, Dian (Vany Fanya) left her playboy husband for the capital, where she joins longtime friend Kiki (Manda Cello) earning a living as street prostitute.
Within the space of several hours, the fate of all characters crosses the same path smeared with lust, greed and guilty minds.
Director Adrian Tang interweaves the complicated personal conflicts of a multitude of characters into a story that is easy to watch, without falling into the trap of finding justification, putting all influential past events in the end credit.
Writers Husein M. Atmodjo and Selvinaeri Cahyani are credited for most of the script however sufficient elbow room was made for improvisation and there are subsequently a few too many conversations in Sundanese directly subtitled to English.
The film features explicit and sexually denotative language as well as gory scenes which, according to Adrian, prompted the censor agency to rate Iseng as suitable for an audience 21 years old and above, although he had wanted it to be accessible for younger viewers as well.
The minimum lightning arranged by cinematographer Hong Yin Ao and the use of handheld camera in most scenes gave the film a natural tone that set the quiet, relaxing mood of the film.
The cast comprises both veteran and rookie actors, singers, models, as well as the executive producers of the film ' all of whom presented a notable performance no matter how brief.
Screening in theaters since March 10, Iseng also touches on media and the police, both subject to 'recklessness' when doing their job.
If the film was intended to remind us that sometimes the right decision can take us to the wrong place, as the tagline suggests, then it must be referring to an entirely different film. However, Iseng does give us something to ponder and perhaps, like it or not, is a stark reminder that bad things happen.
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