Over the coming weeks, The Daily Seni will be reintroducing content previously missing from our databases due to system upgrades. Today, we’ve revived a review of Psiko Pencuri Hati written by filmmaker, critic and historian Hassan Abdul Muthalib, first published 13 September 2013. This version of his review has been edited by Deric Ect.
NAM RON, a graduate in theatre, made his first feature-length digital movie titled Gedebe: Siapa Bunuh Caesar? in 2003. Carriying the tagline “suara anak muda tentang masyarakatnya”, the film was based on a play which Nam Ron wrote and staged at his alma mater, ASWARA.
Produced by Amir Muhammad and lensed by James Lee, Gedebe starred fledgling actors who are now respected names in the industry including Hariry Jalil, Zul Huzaimy and Sofi Jikan. It was the director’s exploration of numerous controversies in local government leading up to that time. Recalling entities such as UMNO, Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim from the late 1990s, its premise was related to a quote once made by Mahathir who referenced Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar — “It’s not that I love Caesar less but that I love Rome more”.
The introduction to the story illustrates Nam Ron’s disdain for politicians and their shenanigans: two groups of punks and skinheads are setting up chairs, but there is a disagreement and a free-for-all fight ensues. It’s not difficult to decipher what chairs here mean — politicians scrambling to get into parliament using whatever means they have, including violence.
Nam Ron followed this up with Gadoh (2009), co-directed with Brenda Danker. Again he introduced new actors such as Zahiril Adzim and Amerul Affendi who have since made it in the industry. The film depicted a Chinese versus Malay ruckus in a secondary school due to prejudice arising from misconceptions. Needless to say, it was banned by the censors.
But when it was shown at HELP University to a full-house of Chinese and Malays, it certainly did not turn out to be “a threat to national security”. There were no riots in the hall. What followed after the screening was an intelligent discussion. Malaysians are actually a very intelligent lot, contrary to what certain imbeciles are saying.
Nam Ron then directed Lollipop for short film omnibus 15MALAYSIA (2009) produced by Pete Teo. It starred Bront Palarae who brilliantly played a pedophile, his condition brought about by childhood abuse.
His next feature film, Jalan Pintas (2012), posed a question often put forward in the films of P. Ramlee: why are the Malays who have succeeded not helping those who are struggling? Why are the problems which have existed since colonisation still happening now that we have (supposedly) attained to independence? What are we really independent from? Is there something wrong with the system? Who is responsible for it? The film didn’t see the light of day because the censors requested for 18 cuts (the same number that a certain party’s assemblyman was cut into if you recall the Mona Fandey case). It’s now available on DVD however so go get it!
Nam Ron’s first cinematic feature Psiko Pencuri Hati is now showing. He continues to build upon his previous films’ ideas and take it a little further. His guns (like James Lee in Sini Ada Hantu) are now trained on the Malaysian film audience. The clue is in the title itself (affirming and negating) and in the final scene of the film, after a few credits have rolled.
His hero (Bront Palarae), heroine (Sharifah Amani) and the hero’s imaginary friend (Amerul Effendi) appear in a visual style opposite to that of the film just seen. Nam Ron deliberately subverts the genre to indicate that what had ensued on screen for the past 90 minutes was all ‘fiction’ which only takes place in the mind of writers who think they are writers (read: Malaysian writers). The real stories are in broad daylight but are not noticed by them.
There is also a reference to the 1995 David Fincher film Seven — the protagonist is a novelist with seven novels to his credit.
Throughout the duration of the film, Nam Ron feeds audiences with everything they are used to seeing in a murder mystery: cinematography and lighting that point to the hero as a psycho; the tacit appearance of the police with their singular appearance at the beginning; numerous coincidences; purposely inane dialogue; a rifle; knives; blood and gore (including the heroine and kids also dishing it out); a comedic and overweight resort owner with a sexy wife (a parody of American films of the like set in a remote area), and all psychos always having had problems during their childhood. If this is all the audience wants, then Nam Ron is giving it to them – and he does it with a hearty chuckle.
Nam Ron’s use of sound and music goes against the grain, as it should to achieve his ends — like Khir Rahman did in …Dalam Botol but got overlooked by the film festival jury who gave it to the silly Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa). His cinematography and editing is meaningful and superior to most local films, with elements of symbolism in the right places — as compared to the pretentiously-directed KIL whose aesthetics was at odds with the narrative.
With Psiko Pencuri Hati, Nam Ron has delivered a satisfying film like a veteran. He is on his way to greater things – if the local audience will just allow him.