Exclusive: “Belenggu” Pushing Boundaries

Psychological thriller is still a less popular genre in Indonesia. Mainly because it contains a highly twisted plot and brought up issues which are not discussed openly such as mental disorders and depression which often linked to mysticism. This particular genre also let audience to play with their intellect, figuring out what’s really going on. Suffice to say, our audience is not smart enough and our directors are not qualified enough for this genre. But in the midst of slapstick horror wave, Belenggu comes in offering new challenge for both Indonesian filmmakers and audience to detangle the complicated storyline and ride in fantastic speed of a Psychological Thriller train; directed by Upi who has long dreamed making this film and finally her dream comes true after 8 years of waiting. Join DEW with Abimana Aryasatya, Imelda Therinne and Laudya Chintya Bella as we were discussing about this fascinating film & genre, pushing boundaries and hopes for local film industry.

What Brought Them to Belenggu

What may come as a surprise to most of us is the fact that Abimana actually said no to Upi in playing Elang. “After the first audition I was a bit reluctant and I said no to Upi, because the difficulty level in this role. But Upi is the kind of person who won’t take no as an answer. She was very persistent and after two meetings with her, she convinced me.” Different case with Imelda, having worked together in a film that Upi Produced, she was immediately fascinated by the script, “She called my manager and offered me the role.  When I read the script, I felt challenged, I knew I could explore so many things, plus I’ve always wanted to work together under her direction.” While Bella shyly confessed that it was truly an honor for her to be given such opportunity and trust from Upi that it was impossible to say no to.

On Playing Complicated Characters

When asked about how hard their preparation for their roles, Abimana and Imelda both were giving a frustrated yet relieved sighs. They admitted only given a month of intense preparation. Although very detail in mentoring her casts, Upi as Director was generous enough to give autonomy to the casts in matter of exploring their own character. Playing the mentally disturbed central character, Abimana had many discussions with Upi about his character, “We’ve discussed about this a lot, at our earlier talk she told me to avoid just one specific mental disorder to play with, let the audience decide it on their own.” Three of them agree that their characters weren’t easy to play; it’s not their everyday common light acting. They had to face various challenges and obstacles. “This is a new genre in our film scene, so there are no standardized set yet, especially for actors,” explained Abimana. “The exploration is exciting, but there’s a fear that we can’t satisfy the audience, that fear became a burden.” When asked whether he’s satisfied with his work in Belenggu, Abimana confessed that he never watch himself in all his films, “I’ll never satisfied, even if I see the final film, there’s always thing that need to be fixed  but nothing much can be done at that stage, right?”

“Every actor is constantly looking for character that will increase their acting skill, and this character challenges me to keep exploring. I had to read the script three times until finally understand it inside and out,” Imelda excitedly revealed her experience playing Jingga, “My character is very complicated, there’s a history there, there’s changes, reality mixed with fantasy. Something happened to her and there’s a master plan. It’s like she was planted a chip from Elang’s mind, she’ll take audience to a mysterious journey until each story finally revealed itself.”

28 Days of Shooting

“It was the first time I went to location and no one was laughing or joking around,” Bella laughs sharing her moment shooting Belenggu. With 28 days of principal photography which set mainly in one location; an abandoned building in Senen. “Because we’re not allowed to smoke in most places, so we always gathered in this one white tent to smoke and having discussion, it was really fun. And maybe because the discussion always led into something positive so that we managed to overcome obstacles during the shooting. The clash between cast and crew were almost never happened because everyone was working so well together.” Abimana telling his unforgettable moments during the shooting.

Setting New Standards

Belenggu has been chosen to participate in international film festivals such as PIFAN in Puchon, Korea and Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival before it releases here. And the reception in Puchon was quite amazing. But even with international recognition, Abimana, Imelda and Bella still have their fear that this film will not be well received in its home country. “I’m really grateful if the audience can accept and willing to watch this kind of film genre. Every year we also have our own Indonesian International Fantastic Film Festival, but the reception’s still not that great. I hope Belenggu can open a wider door for this kind of genre, so that will be more films like this produced in the future, and that would be awesome,” explained Abimana.  When asked about what we can do to make our audience appreciate better local films, the three of them laugh with a hint of frustration. Imelda explained, “We need more people like mbak Upi, people who have guts to push the boundaries so that the audience will get more choices, more open to new genre. The audience has got to be more critical too, if the audience gets more critical, automatically the filmmakers will be motivated to produce better films. If the audience is easily pleased by slapstick horror, no wonder filmmakers keep making such films.”

Abimana also shared his concern with the local Film appreciation such as film awards. In his opinion we need to set up new standards for those awards, “If the film which chosen to win the award actually not the best film out there, our standards will set up only to that level. But if we let the best to win, we will make better films in the following year and our quality will keep improving.” As actors and actresses, they certainly hope that our local film industry will keep moving forward and growing, producing more and more fascinating films because to their concern, Indonesian audience actually craving for local films, as Imelda explained, “We are actually craving for our own story, with our own culture. It doesn’t matter actually if we put a little mysticism into it, mysticism is a part of our culture and it’s very beautiful if presented in the right way. It’s all about the packaging.” (Text and Interview Nuy Darmadjaja) 

Belenggu is out on February, 28th 2013. You can watch the trailer below:

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