Reza Rahadian masturbating. That one simple act is honestly why I was lured after merely 20 seconds of the trailer. In my defense, you don’t get to see an Indonesian movie with such blatant sexual act often – even if we do have a lot of lewd themed movies. And Something in the Way actually talk about sexuality instead of selling sex, so my point still stand. Anyway, I’ve been wanting to watch this movie since mid-2014 and thanks to Salihara, I finally got the chance to do so
in time to be a belated birthday celebration too. While it’s not as much of a social critique as I thought it would be, it still was mesmerizing.
Ahmad (Reza Rahadian) is a taxi driver with little to no ambition who spend his days masturbating. Still he compensate the fact that he’s spending his working time in a red light district or being surrounded by fellow cabbie who frequent prostitute, by visiting mosque to learn the importance of morality and purity.
Yet his work bring him closer to Kinar, a prostitute who also happened to be his neighbor. And as cliche as it may sounds, Ahmad fall in love.
In an often conservative society such as Indonesia, Teddy Soeriaatmadja brought a breathe of fresh air through this movie. Something in the Way dabble with those who could barely make ends meet and their life in the underbelly of Jakarta, a theme that is so rarely seen that I unconsciously expected a little too much. I was hoping that Something in the Way would be a character study of a sex-addict with conflicting sexual desire and internalized religion value – an Indonesian version of Shame of some sort – or a social critique about Jakarta’s much apparent but under-discussed sex industry. Yet, Something in the Way is neither. It’s merely a peek into Ahmad’s dull life and how Kinar is a streak of light that he desperately try to hold on to.
While I do appreciate this chance to look and experience the life that I don’t normally got exposed to, Teddy’s decision to focus on Ahmad and Kinar backfired because for a character-driven story, there is not enough depth in the both of them. Ahmad is a cabbie with a lot of sexual drive – but who is he beyond that? He’s not that good at socializing, but there’s no explanation about why – is he simply a socially awkward penguin, or does he act so because he’s constantly torn between what he believes in and how his surrounding and he himself act? And if he’s constantly struggling because he’s unable to uphold the morality like he was supposed to, I could barely see it. It was only towards the ending that it’s plain to see how much the preaching affect Ahmad’s mentality and his behavior. On the other hand, Kinar is much more archetypal – a single mother who is forced to work as a prostitute because she have no other option. And Pinem is of course the evil pimp who represent the obstacle between Ahmad and Kinar.
And yet even with the handicap in character department, the casts managed to be stellar. Reza Rahadian proved that he can really do no wrong and perform solidly, even if Ahmad as a character wasn’t engaging enough for me to empathize with him. But I appreciate his awkward gait, his hesitation in almost everything he do, and the desperation that prompts his descend towards the end. Although in my honest opinion, someone with his face should be able to attract more girls – but that’s just preference. As his counterpart, Ratu Feliza deliver an equally grounded performance as Kinar. She refuse any kind of pity with a firm grip on reality, denying any Cinderella story way out because she knows it’s not realistic. But Verdi Solaiman’s Pinem really stole my attention with his monologue during his confrontation with Ahmad, and I can’t help but to agree with his points. Even if Pinem’s monologue also happen to stripped Ahmad off of any singularity he might have.
Unfortunately, the story are not without flaw either, because it was a bit too banal for my taste. I’m not saying that the story is bad, it’s just that I found the plot a bit predictable and it feels the way Ahmad’s life does: dull. Still, it actually deviates from the custom of “a nobody who found salvation in the form of a damsel in distress.” Because Teddy refuse to romanticized their love, so he can present it in the angst that would actually emanate when such hopeless love befall you in real life. And he does have an interesting idea about how your religion – or to be exact, your religion’s so-called mouthpiece – could easily influence your action with their preaching. Ahmad represent the existence of those who turn to religion in desperation and take whatever they hear in face value, molding it to fit their current situation in hope of an easy way out. I would argue that this movie tactfully show that religious verses are a matter of interpretation, a mirror of what you actually desire: if you want to kill, you’ll find a verse to justify your action. Not the other way around. Also, you do have to admit that what the cleric in the movie say are ironically familiar – you’ve heard it somewhere before by another face in the name of religion. I am one of those who can only laugh in disbelief over the words, after all.
All in all, Something in the Way, for me, is one of those “such a shame” case. It was mesmerizing – the casts were on point with their performances, the cinematography was sinfully beautiful, and the ambiance was eerie but it somehow suck you in deeper. But it could have been so much better, it would’ve been amazing if Kinar is not just another prostitute with a sad-but-morally-justified reason and, most importantly, if it shows a deeper character study on Ahmad. I would really love to see a story about a porn-addict slash sex-addict in Indonesia: how he make do with what little money he got, and how he deal with the society that constantly contradict itself – preaching about upholding morality in one side and yet offering free love in the street with people who violate their own code of conduct on daily basis. But Something in the Way is a good start, a must watch movie that got you pondering about the underexposed side of Jakarta, and I must admit that the ironically karmic ending consoled me. Now I’m just waiting for someone else to follow suit and pick up this theme.
Plus point: Reza Rahardian committing adulteries. Really, do I need to say more?
Director: Teddy Soeriaatmadja. Writer: Teddy Soeriaatmadja. Released on: 8 February 2013 (Berlinale). Casts: Reza Rahadian, Ratu Felisha, Verdi Solaiman, Yayu AW Unru.