A large part of media is linear – music, film, books. There is a point A that will always go to point B. No matter how many times you watch a film or listen to a song its form does not change. Ola Bola will always end the same way. That bassline from your favourite EDM song will always drop at the same exact time. Interpretations might differ, emotions might fluctuate – but the medium remains static. Thus, by giving power to its audience to choose the chapters, Ngelamun is a game-changer.
Ngelamun, a Topo Morto Pictures production, is actually not the first film or programme that wears the ‘interactive’ label. In the past we’ve had shows like Impian Illyana that lets its viewers SMS to ‘choose’ the plot. The SMS however does not actually determine the storyline, but simply a glorified guessing game where the people who guessed it correctly would win some sort of competition. No alternate chapter is shot, no choice is actually given. When it comes to this, Ngelamun is different since both options provided are full-fledged scenes with thought and effort put into them.
Using the annotation features on Youtube, Ngelamun tells a simple tale of a dreamer, Mina, who falls for a new student in her class. With this simple premise, Adam Zainal Abidin – director and writer – splits the story up into several parallel worlds that eventually merges into one final ending. Although there is only one conclusion, the path you tread in your journey to the finale is entirely yours. Quirky and adorable – there is joy in finding out the outcome.
Speaking of choices, there is much artistic and creative merit in the decisions made by the director too. One of them is the fluorescent-esque with a slight tinge of pastel color-grading of the film. It seems Wes Anderson-inspired (especially the font choices) but the scheme itself is unique in its own way too, with shots that are thematically varied – apparent when comparing between the shots in the classroom, and Mina’s daydreams. The reason this decision is absolutely remarkable because it evokes emotions more than lines can ever convey. A mixture of childhood nostalgia and zany reveries.
Another factor that makes Ngelamun noteworthy is that, although it is a low-budget short film, they bothered and cared enough about their work to create an original score. Mina’s Lullaby, performed by Ilmu should not only be praised for being original, but also because it carries the mood of the short film really well. The soft-strumming is made ethereal and dreamy by the whistling. Somehow, the fact that the whistling is barely audible makes it more genuine and warm; not to mention pretty and wispy.
The acting and script is a bit of an awkward grey area. On one hand, the authenticity of the actors is decently executed and immediately accessible, a happy byproduct of casting people who are not acting veterans, i.e. not shrouded by the baggage of typecasting, but elevated by genuineness. It straddles the line between ‘honesty’ and ‘cringe-worthy’, with some lines being odd and disjointed jumble of rojak, but other parts, small moments of witty humour.
As an amateur production, it is probably disproportionate to expect too much from this short film, yet with all candour, Ngelamun has already exceeded many expectations. With innovative ways of storytelling and smart creative methods of using visuals to expound the narrative, Ngelamun is a prospective important milestone for the future of local independent filmmaking, It adds as a beautiful bookmark to much younger years too, when personality, love and heartbreak happens all within the setting of people in pinafores and uniforms – a sweet dalliance into some innocent purity of middling adolescence.
There’s much to be discussed about the outlook of the film too. Does leaving the narrative choices to the people work? Or is it just a lazy shortcut from determining a singular plotline since there’s too much risk in predetermination? Or is Ngelamun a beacon of hope for the amateur and the professional industry?
We wished we had all of these answers, but like Mina, one can only dream.
Check out the film below and tell us what you think!