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Jakarta Twilight: Stitching Pieces Of Lived Realities

by Helmy Sa'at

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Everyone has problems. No one’s life is perfect or free from hardships, struggles and dilemmas. That is what Jakarta Twilight (Jakarta Maghrib) has captured through a patchwork of stories, stitching a cohesive and interconnected lived realities of a group of urban Jakarta residents during one typical Maghrib (sunset prayer period). Essentially, it is a collection of flash fiction weaved into a piece of cinematic experience.

Stitches Of Daily Realities

Issues ranging from one’s future marriage, social justice to the afterlife occupy the characters’ minds. Life is not just lived wholly and exclusively within one’s bubble. Instead, we traverse our lifetime constantly interacting and building relationships with other people, including our Creator.

A still from Jakarta Twilight.

In “Adzan” (“Call to prayer”), one is pulled into witnessing a conversation between a devout old man, with a strong sense of religious piety and devotion, and a street thug who is a non-practising Muslim. Interestingly, as an audience, one’s preconceived notion of the supposed run-of-the-mill conversation that is more likely to morph into a preaching session quickly dissipates.

The conversation, at times appearing hostile and even verging on crudeness by assaulting the ears with harsh word choices and expressions, appears to (superficially and subconsciously) evolve into a Socratic dialogue whereby the banter aids exploration of opposing viewpoints and ideas contributing to learning points for both parties. The old man who runs a small business across the small mosque in the district has been religiously cleaning the shared prayer space besides praying in the communal space. Unfortunately, he seems to be the only active congregant. As such, the thug chided him:

Daripada urus musolah yang rajin disumbang … urus warung aje, biar ramai.” (“Rather than religiously manage the mosque … take care of the business in order to attract more customers.”)

Warung gak bisa dibawa mati.” (“This business could not be packed up to the afterlife.”) The old man cooly responded without batting an eyelid accompanied by a sincere, which could easily be mistaken as naive, smile.

True, no one could buy a house in heaven. There is no guarantee connecting the here and now with the afterlife. However, that does not spur the old man to shove his religious beliefs down the thug’s throat. It illuminates two broad realities. First, in society there are different degrees of spiritual piety. Second, contesting ideas that shape one’s religious practice do not necessarily have to lead to animosities.

Simply, it is a conscious choice.

It is best summed up by the old man who believes that the mosque, and Islam by extension, “tidak mengenal suku. Semua orang sama di sana” (“does not identify creeds. All human beings are welcome there”).

No Shortcuts In Life

The banter in “Adzan” soon takes a morbid turn as they segue into matters of death. The thug challenges the old man with a near fatalistic view that many would inevitably subscribe to:

Kalau memang mau mampus, ia mampus saja!” (“If you are going to die, then it will happen!”)

The old man’s frank confession elicits humility that unintentionally inspires his listeners, the thug and the audience of the film included: “Saya tidak takut mati … . Takut kalau belum bikin apa-apa yang benar, saya … mati.” (I am not afraid of death … . Afraid of not having done any good, then I … die.”)

A still from Jakarta Twilight.

Essentially, there are no shortcuts in life. The complexity of life is compounded by the choices we have to make till our last breath. In other words, we have to live with the consequences of our actions dictated by our choices, for the rest of our lives.

With the above-mentioned wisdom, could we still afford to wait to change? And, wait for change? There are no shortcuts in life, love and faith. One needs to put in the work in order to grow in life, love and faith.

A still from Jakarta Twilight.

In the aptly titled story “Jalan Pintas” (Shortcut”), the same aforementioned issues are contextually put to the test in a different setting. Through the lens of a tensed romantic relationship between a young woman and her boyfriend of seven years.

Again, nothing is guaranteed in life other than our Creator’s love. She discovers the necessity of prioritising her happiness without having to attach it to a man’s actions. As in any relationship, there are no shortcuts to happiness. It demands more than just physical presence with emotional presence being equally important in order to support one’s partner and be on the same page in a shared lifetime commitment – marriage.

An answer that is already obvious yet hard to accept as she confronts her boyfriend: “Kalau gitu kamu bisa nentui hasil akhir hubungan kita bagaimana?” (“If that’s the case, could you determine the end result of our relationship?”) Ironically, her question appears to be more of a self-reflection paired with acute realisation for what is needed to be done to move forward. Is their relationship able to weather this storm?

Choosing Love Requires Sacrifices

A still from Jakarta Twilight.

Ultimately, what these characters experience points to the importance of decision-making. We all have a choice to make. Each choice demands sacrifices as we weigh the pros and cons. However, that does not translate strictly into just wins and losses with the focus on the latter. By reframing the conversations, what do the characters have to gain? What do we learn from them?

Both “Adzan” and “Jalan Pintas” show that love, whether for our one and only Creator, partner and even ourselves, inevitably requires continual attention in addition to a certain amount of sacrifices. For the old man, though he is being mocked mercilessly by the thug, he manages to find inner peace and calmly engages in a meaningful dialogue that inspires change. Romantic love also does not mean a total loss with the option of choosing to end it. Is that God’s way of guiding us to a better future? Something to ponder about.

For the rest of Jakarta Twilight, including the resolution to some of the questions raised above, you would have to choose to watch it for yourself.

Since you have read this far, do explore other similar articles from our team:

Which of the above-mentioned Indonesian films have you watched or are excited to watch? What are your reactions and thoughts? Which character do you find the most memorable or relate to the most? Share your views in the Comments section below right after smashing that thumbs-up emoji!