Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Misteri Jalan Lama [2011]

Director: Afdlin Shauki
Cast: Que Haidar, Hans Isaac, Ahmad Tarmimi Siregar, Vanidah Imran, Afdlin Shauki, Namron, Nasir Bilal Khan
Genre: Fantasy/Drama/Horror
Rating: General
Excerpt: "It took me a while to figure out what kind of movie it sought out to be, but half-way into it I forgot what I was watching..."

Two brothers who couldn't be any more different are brought together again in the event of their father's death. Indra (Hans Isaac), a rough-around-the-edges kind of guy with a gambling problem is entrusted with the task of sending his younger brother back to their hometown, a task that will grant him inheritance of their father's wealth. Meanwhile, his younger brother Ilya (Que Haidar) is going through some problems of his own; Haunted by visions and riddled with questions, he is about to discover that everything he thought he knew about his life is a lie.

What to Expect
1. A slow start
2. To squint throughout the movie
3. Cool creatures
4. Good production value
5. Not for the impatient

What NOT to Expect
1. A horror movie
2. The Lord of the Rings
3. Humour
If you have nothing better to see
I knew right from the start that this movie was going to be a gamble, and I'm sure how big a leap it was for the production crew to have delved into something a little far removed from what the audience is used to. Not that Fantasy is an unheard of genre over here, it's just that people here have the mentality that local films should be lighthearted and filled with slapstick humour. Anything heavier or more ambitious should be left to Hollywood.

It's unfair, I know. But people here are a long way from not laughing nervously every time film-makers expect to be taken seriously, and I'm afraid people might only shrug when asked about Misteri Jalan Lama, some might even dismiss it as being self-indulgent, nonsensical, and would only appeal to hardcore fans of the Mastika magazine. Oh wait, come to think of it we do have plenty of those.

Story-wise, Afdlin Shauki deserves praise for being one not to flip open the Malay Movie Playbook and playing it step-by-step. The plot was pretty simple and straightforward, but you wouldn't realise that until the credits start to roll because they tastefully withheld information from the audience, and let us in on the story little by little. But of course, the pacing could have been better because things got a little slow and felt too dragged out, and its running time felt a lot longer than it actually was.

Which would have been fine if it had been for the sake of character development. But the thing is, it kept telling us the same things about the characters. Like there's no way we could have figured it out for ourselves the first twenty minutes when they kept showing us that Ilya is haunted by visions.

Although, I do love the premise. Even though I never could understand this fascination people have with the supernatural. I liked how Afdlin Shauki was careful in not getting cute with the material by not poking fun at itself. In other words, at no point did the movie parody itself by making any self-deprecating jokes. But at the same time, I think the movie could have been a little easier to watch had it been made with a sense of irony. Not much, maybe sprinkles of it every now and then?

Because you see, everything about the movie practically begged to be taken seriously. The score looming in the background always seemed to imply that something scary is about to happen, like something straight out of an Ahmad Idham horror movie. The screen was almost always dark, pretty much three shades away from becoming a black-and-white movie, or like somebody had a little too much fun with the 'Saturation' slider in their video editing software. So to put it simply, it was a Fantasy movie made to look and feel like a horror movie.

The only thing missing was a smoke machine.

But it's all fine, I have no quarrel with film directors doing what they could to fulfill their vision. It's just that for me, it felt too incongruent. On the side note, I can't help but snort back a laugh when they had warriors show up in body armours with nipples on them. It reminded me too much of Joel Schumacher's Batman fiasco, and it was also at that point I forgot what I was watching.

The real problem I had with Misteri Jalan Lama was that I couldn't figure out what it was trying to sell, or what was it that it wanted me to get from the experience. All it had going for it was an interesting premise, but no real sense of urgency and at no point did I feel like there was anything at stake. Which was fine had it been a horror movie, but it wasn't. Or maybe it was, or maybe I just plain don't get it.

It's just not my cup of tea.

1 comment:

FilmPuff said...

I'm sorry but the biggest problem with this movie is that it was plain horrible. Even Que Haidar didn't bother to show up to the premiere or promote the movie at all.

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