Tak Ada yang Gila di Kota Ini flows like a realist narrative in Eka Kurniawan’s short story. While, in fact, the story is a series of oddities and elusive dark humor that happen normally in the author’s universe. Built upon implicit social commentaries and symbolism-by-symbolism, the story is knitted only by the surreal events that resemble “narrative.” When young director, Wregas Bhanuteja (Lemantun, Prenjak), adapts it into a short film of the same title, he opts to stick in with his interpretation and, truth be told, he’s adept at it.
Bhanuteja (winning Semaine de la Critique in Cannes 2016 for his short film, Prenjak) is no strange to striking-cum-surreal imagery in his films. Oftentimes, elaborations of symbols that roots deep in the storytelling is the reason his works are poignant. The cupboard in Lemantun is a solid proof of how symbolism works hand-in-hand with the story. Tak Ada yang Gila di Kota Ini takes such a notion to a whole new level. Every frame seems outlandish and every scene emanates goes beyond the figurative layer.
During the first minute, the camera locks on to a group of hotel employees (one of them is Oka Antara, Killers, The Raid 2) wearing eye-popping, tropic-inspired shirts as they herd at least three madmen and release them into a strange wood. As if the whole thing is not baffling enough, one of them is wearing a quirky-looking horse mask to scare away the madmen. The reason is surprisingly simple: the hotel owner would not want those madmen to be an irritant for guests when they’re wandering around the rural town. On a surprising turn, the madmen aren’t necessarily ridden off and the guests are not irritated with the madmen. In fact, there’s a secret exhibit where the madmen become the commodities and the guests fetish-laden customers.
Bhanuteja has the eyes to poignantly deliver a raw social commentary blaming the society for self-exploitation in the brink of poverty. Prenjak observes how people are willing away to expose their private part in the unlikeliest way for money. At the same time, there is another kind of person who is eager to spend money to quench their fetishes. Tak Ada yang Gila di Kota Ini works on a similar mechanism. At times, it looks as if it satirizes the way the society perks up to conceal the usual suspect (a.k.a. poverty); while, at the same time, sells it for easy money to those who love romancing tragedies. When that happens, the line between sanity and insanity blurs off. Who the real madman is becoming the underlying question that Bhanuteja projects.
Clocking in on 20 minutes, Tak Ada yang Gila di Kota Ini has a handful of content. To call it solid might be an understatement since most of the narratives are not some ‘solid events.’ Interpretations might vary based on whatever subtexts to be the stance; but, that does not dull the notion that Bhanuteja has the audacity to go bold with his style.