Glitch: Tersesat Dalam Waktu (My First Indonesian SF Film)

So, I’ve just finished watching Glitch: Tersesat Dalam Waktu (English: Glitch: Getting Lost In Time) as I write this. (It will end up being posted later, but I’m writing it now, so I’ll just write it in the present time.) It’s one of the DVDs I managed to pick up while in Jakarta that is actually an SF movie, as opposed to mainstream drama or horror. (SF seems rare there, but horror is practically mainstream cinema in Indonesia, from what I can tell.)


Anyway, the premise is that some sort of time loops have been set up for some unknown reason, all over the world. The cast of characters — one pretty-people couple, plus a somewhat bookwormish-looking girl and the overweight guy in love with her — fall prey to these time loops. They have to go in search of answers to the question of how these time came into being, and how to control them, or they face a pretty unpromising future of being bounced about randomly in time.

The male lead, who is home in Indonesia on holiday from his studies abroad (in Japan) contacts one of his professors, who helps him find out some information. But there’s more to the mystery than meets the eye…

(Warning: Spoilers from here on in…)

The premise isn’t brilliant, but all in all it’s not so bad. The film is hurt by a few things, though: at some points, the acting seems somewhat wooden. There are awkward pauses during dialog, which I’ve seen in Korean TV dramas before, and which ruin the flow of the story. There are scenes where there is clearly supposed to be some kind fo background noise–for example, pounding music in a night club–except the music is absent. Likewise, on one of the beach scenes, the sound of the ocean jumps from nearly silent to very noticeable depending on the camera angle, which is a bit distracting.

More objectionable, though, is how the “action” soundtrack is at times ill-matched with what is happening onscreen; music that would fit a car chase was, for example, used as characters slowly and carefully pick their way down a simple trail and across a shallow creek.

Then there’s the “science” in this SF film: the ending of the movie, unfortunately, reminded me of the similarly-unfortunate ending of the Korean film 2009: Lost Memories, in that the ultimate key to the mystery of time-travel is magical, not technological. And it is further marred by the bizarre twist ending that, somehow, the energy that is released by the undoing of the time-glitch which is the success of the leading character at the end of the film somehow sets off the Indian Ocean Earthquake — yes, the earthquake that set off the huge killer tsunami of 2004.

I wonder if it’s simple a feature of SF in countries where there is little or no strong tradition of native SF that cinematic attempts at the genre will often revert to fantasy tropes to serve as the basis or explanation for the unexplained or unusual occurrences in the film? Fantasy was, as I recall, a much more (or at least more available) popular literary genre than SF in Indonesian bookstores, being the default generic signifier for “speculative fiction” (unlike how in some places, SF is used to include science-fiction and fantasy).

In fact, by these standards, I have to add that nearly all the Korean SF films I’ve seen at some point revert to, or indeed aspire to, the fantastical in one of its forms: the myth, the fairytale, or the outright fantasy story. Perhaps these standards are unfair, since media SF in the English-speaking world often relies on dumb science or no science at all… but the dumb science is, at least, presented as if it were science. Nobody explains the movement of the Starship Enterprise as if it is powered by a squadron of ghosts harvested from ancient Northern European battlefields, or imprisoned elves, or whatever. Even the most fantasy-based SF franchise in English, Star Wars, takes pains to dress up its Swords’n’Sorcery roots in the pseudoscientific.

Much more strange and inexplicable to me was the linkage of the time loops to the fantastical village and the 2004 earthquake/tsunami. But, then, I have almost no handle on the speculative imagination of the average Indonesian cinemagoer or speculative-fiction fan–maybe it somehow seems logical Indonesia would be hit hard by the resulting tsunami, given the fact that the time-glitch was set off when someone trespassed against natural (and magical) law law in a mystical “Invisible Village” in the bush on the Indonesian island of Java?

Still, the film has its moments. There’s a weird, nascent affair between two characters which is hinted at a few times, and gets cut off before it can turn into anything, but which I never expected would occur even as a possibility–and no, it’s not between the nerdy girl and the fat guy who loves her–and there are a few scenes were the comedy translates well, especially when a couple of characters are investigating one of their leads and a barfly girl (she may be a prostitute or exotic dancer, I’m not sure) goes all gaga over a man she believes is Japanese–the interest is mutual, and played for good comic effect. Finally, the uses of English are vaguely like the use of English in some Indian films, and it really jumps out at you how “smooth” a character comes off when using that language. Again, there’s a strange comedic effect I got a kick out of, in some moments.

In any case, like any SF film from a place where SF is marginal, it’s mostly quite weird, and worth a look if you get a chance.  Or, if you speak Bahasa Indonesia, you might just watch it on Youtube–the whole thing is online, after all, but there’s no subtitles there.

9 thoughts on “Glitch: Tersesat Dalam Waktu (My First Indonesian SF Film)

  1. Wow, you’ve must be the first English speaking person who reviewed this film. I must admit, I was looking forward to watch this film in the cinema in Indonesia, but had to miss it. It’s a pity that many SF productions in Indonesia (and many other developing countries) are treated marginally by the locals. Few Indonesians enjoy SF, but it is increasing I think. By the way, I think the ‘invisible village’ was located near Ngarai Sianok (Sianok Gorge) near Bukittingi in Sumatra, not in Java.
    I hate the ending of this film though.

  2. Arvin,

    Yeah, I got the sense that SF was even more marginal in Indonesia than in Korea. I noticed some shops had only Fantasy sections, and no SF section (but a couple of SF novels tucked into fantasy).

    Like you, I was underwhelmed by the ending of the film, but glad nonetheless to see something SFnal from Indonesia. I’d love to know the names of other Indonesian SF films (or to maybe trade copies of Korean SF films for Indonesian ones, if you’d like).

    Also: assuming you’re Indonesian, and an SF fan, if you have any information you’d like to share on Indonesian SF (film, TV, written SF, fandom, etc.) I’d love to know more.

  3. Hi Gord,
    actually I’m an Indonesian born SF fan, but had some formative childhood years in USA, and am now currently completing my Master of Communication degree (specialising in Media & Cultural Studies) in Edith Cowan University, Perth Australia. I’m in the process of completing my dissertation regarding Indonesian science fiction fandom, but came very short in finding academic resources. So now I’m interviewing between 10-30 Indonesian SF fans and analysing a few Indonesian SF texts (which includes Glith).

    I don’t have much Indonesian SF in my collection. In fact, Indonesia has a poor record of SF media, aside several comic books and a few TV series that have gone to oblivion.

    I do know that the Indonesian Star Trek community is pretty strong though.

  4. Wow, it’s wonderful to talk to someone doing something similar to me — looking at SF, fandom, and so on in a culture where it’s pretty marginal.

    I’d love to look at your dissertation when you’re further along, as well as hear about other SF texts in Indonesia.

    I stayed in Depok for a few months last year, which, well, for me it was difficult, but interesting. Traveled only a little in Indonesia — some parts of Bali and Java, only — as I was visiting my girlfriend there. But I learned a lot and it was a neat experience despite the rough stuff.

    Anyway, I’m very curious to hear more. I’ll be adding Inascifi to my linkroll, if you don’t mind, and drop in from time to time.

    Also, funny to mention but my girlfriend dreams of making an Indonesian-Korean fantasy film someday. It would feature a child of a Korean/Indonesian marriage (mail order bride mother) searching for his identity in Korean society, where people of mixed race are looked down upon, especially if they’re not half-white. I can’t give too much away, except the plot involves Hanuman making a plane trip to a foreign land. :) While not SF, it has something of the social commentary and criticality I look for in some kinds of SF.

    If you’d like, I’d be happy to show you some of my academic writing on SF in Korea. Maybe some of my theorizing about why SF is so marginal here (far more than in China or Japan) might actually be applicable to Indonesia as well. I can see a few parallels already, even from just what I know of Indonesian postcolonial history. Let me know if you’re interested… some of the relevant papers are supposed to be published sometime this year, but I don’t mind letting you have a sneak preview.

  5. Hey,
    welcome in the very small world of Indonesian SF researchers ;)
    Maybe we could all join forces and bring Fiksi Ilmiah some exposure.
    I’m working on my MA thesis on SF-fans and ufology in Indonesia (hope to finish it this summer)and would be very interested in your work, if you care to share.
    Also, could you maybe send me the subtitles for Glitch if they’re included in the DVD? I don’t speak Bahasa Indonesia very well.
    I’m working on a list of FI and will send it to you if you’re still interested.

  6. Jessie,

    Cool! I’m not actually researching Indonesian SF (I do Korean SF, mainly), but I am interested! I’d love to see what you’ve turned up/written about it.

    I’ve loaned out GLITCH I think, but I will definitely look to see if there are subtitles on my copy, and if so, I’ll try rip them for you.

    I’d LOVE to see a list of Fiksi Ilmiah sometime. Are you aware of the World SF Blog? I bet they’d love a guest post from you or something… or if you have a blog somewhere about this stuff. :)

    My (long, ongoing) series on Korean SF (which has some of the same concepts and questions that inform my forthcoming papers scattered among the posts) starts here.

  7. By the way, I’d be especially interested if you have anything to say on the subject of the peripherality of SF in Indonesia. I was shocked at how it seemed even more marginal in Jakarta than in Seoul… I have some theories about that, if you email me (see the Contact link at the top of the page) I can let you see some stuff I’ve written elsewhere.

    1. I just did… it came through, but during a particularly heavy flood of email. I’ll get back to you soon!

      While I have a busted CD-ROM drive on my computer, I will try to find a computer on which I can rip those subs for you. Perhaps one of the computers on campus will suffice, if I can find some subtitle ripping software…

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