Director: Garin Nugroho
A young boy, full of fear and fascination, covertly watches as his mother performs for an unseen admirer A shot is fired and lives are scarred. Awesome in its intensely erotic, seductive grace, the opening sequence of Garin Nugroho's (Letters For an Angel MIFF 94) third feature is a dance with memory, desire and death, and its hypnotic magic echos throughout the film.
Halang (the boy now a young man), an aspiring composer, arrives at a Central Javanese School of traditional arts and is drawn into the disciplined creative regime of Waluyo, the aged teacher/master of song, and another of his young pupils (or is she more than that?), the dancer Bulan. In this world of mesmerising gamelan music and Bedoyo Pasupati dance there is little room for any other obsessions that may feed just below the surface Halang, haunted by the forces of his childhood, gravitates toward the mysterious Bulan with her near masochist abdication of will in the service of her art and her teacher. The growing attraction between the two students threatens to destroy the gentle balance of things-their serenity and sanity.
Indonesia's most interesting contemporary filmmaker, Nugroho is at complete ease mixing his complex cultural and psychological metaphors to challenge and confound his audience Just when you feel you know where you stand he deftly sweeps aside the curtain of Eastern exoticism to leave you uncomfortably spotlit in the glare of your own cliched expectations (ah)