The up-and-coming Indonesian director Lucky Kuswandi has been nominated at the Cannes Film Festival and won the best short film award at Asia Pacific Queer Film Festival for The Fox Exploits the Tiger's Might (2015). This film toured around many film festivals in Asia. After succesfully releasing his first feature film, the fantastic over the top Madame X (2010), he approached his second full-length project with a different style. In the Absence of the Sun (2014) is a delicate portrayal of Indonesian society.
In the Absence of the Sun takes place during one single evening, three different stories happening simultaneously. Gia returns to Jakarta from New York and she immediately reconnects with her past lover who she had lost touch in the past. Mrs.Surya is mourning her husband while suspecting he was having an affair. Indri works at the gym, she meets a handsome rich guy through a dating app and she decides to get the heels from the locker and go meet her Mr. Right after work.
Gia and Naomi meet at a bar. Gia realizes that Naomi is not how she remembered her anymore; Mrs. Surya goes to the hotel in which her husband cheated on her, hoping to find the woman who stole him away from her; Indri is very excited to meet her Mr. Right but the does not look at all like in the pictures. After rejecting him, she cannot afford the restaurant film and she sneaks away.
Lucky Kuswandi did not shy away when showcasing the economic inequality in Jakarta, as well as the western admiration and social class discrimination. Naomi's friends are all fake and snobbish; Mrs. Surya iss looking for the mistress at the bar but she has to pay each time she asked a question. Indri, who was catfished, is not completely innocent either. People on the street, in contrast, do not look pathetic but enjoying themselves. Moreover, religion and the control it has over Indonesian people, specially supressing women, also plays an important role in the film.
Despite all that, the film is a romance. Gia and Naomi get off the car and start walking through the small alleyways of the city. They sit down and eat on the street while they talk about the good old days. Indri bumps into the waiter on the street and the two start something special. Mrs. Surya brings the mistress to the hotel. Although seeking revenge, she also sympathizes with the mistress' life, she has to make a living out of sex. At the same time, Mrs. Surya is getting some comfort from an unexpected source.
In the Absence of the Sun is a love letter to the city of Jakarta. Lucky Kuswandi gives a glimpse into Jakarta's most beautiful hout in the evening, when everyone is out being themselves. The four women end up in the same hotel but their future seems a bit blurry. They cannot win reality. However, this night, whether good or bad, they got some answers for themselves. The unprivileged women of Indonesia can only enjoy the beauty before dawn.
Author: Gorge Huang