Part of MKC's coverage of the 20th Busan International Film Festival.
By Pierce Conran
Acclaimed Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar returns with his fifth feature, A Copy of My Mind, a tale of love, passion and how to get ahead in the back alleys of sprawling Jakarta. Made with the help of CJ Entertainment, as the Korean major continues to industriously wean its way into developing Southeast Asian film markets, this romantic thriller, which teeters back and forth between the worlds of DVD piracy and local politics, is suffused with ample wry commentary.
By day, Sari pops pimples in a low-rent beauty salon and at night she indulges her thirst for b-movie entertainment with the latest pirated releases. Irked by poor subtitling, she tries to return a title and meets Alex, who wiles away his nights creating subtitles for illegal releases. They quickly fall in love but their happiness is short-lived, when Sari steals a DVD from the cell on an imprisoned client. Instead of a film, she discovers evidence of political corruption which puts her and Alex in hot water before long.
Avoiding big set pieces and showy locations, Anwar's camera explores the earthy backwaters of the metropolis with a clear sense of space and tone. Jakarta breathes to life through the subtle details of the film's carefully calibrated and low-key mise-en-scene. The dank lighting of the small dwellings, the gritty intimacy of the shady businesses and the ambient closeups that welcome us into the urban alleys are enough to bring the whole town to life.
Chicco Jerikho lends a catchy charisma and salty charm to his street hustling rogue, who may otherwise have come off as a brackish character, while Tara Basro, who had a small part in Killers, plays Sari with a reserved confidence, focused in her aims and almost impervious to intimidation, yet mistrustful in her interactions and always one poorly judged step away from getting into trouble.
When the couple gets together, which takes a while as they don't even meet until well into the first hour, they share in their love of filmed entertainment and Sari begins to adorn his living room wall with dozens of DVDs. In their modest ways, each is trying to elevate their station, and their mutual passion hints at greater desires. In a devilish twist of irony, their daydreams become a nightmare once she steals the disc from the prisoner, and its content pushes them towards a bitter truth that they are unequipped to handle.
Taking his time to set up the mood of the story and the mindset of its characters, Anwar brings the story into focus with an unhurried tempo. And while the set up is longer than it needs to be, when A Copy of my Mind enters its thriller mode, the events and scope of the narrative escalate quickly as an unwitting transfer of information folds in many larger dimensions. Having spent so much time on his characters, it's a shame that Anwar guns them towards a climax in the final act which sees them no longer as agents of their own action but rather as pawns in a more forceful narrative strand.
This review also appeared on Twitchfilm.com
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