A fallen woman on the run develops a new life with the aid of a troubled photographer in “The Photograph,” the fourth feature from Indonesian helmer Nan Achnas, whose keen eye and quality lensing provide a visually luxuriant film experience. Pic was released locally in July, and some arthouse play is possible in niche markets across Asia and Europe, but deliberately paced yarn — with strong central perfs, delivered with sensitivity — is more likely to be confined to the fest circuit.
Aging photographer Johan (Lim Kay Tong) operates his portrait business in an Indonesian town. Snapper lives alone and is clearly haunted by mysterious photographs placed on his meditation altar.
Elsewhere in town, 25-year-old Sita (Shanty) removes her personal photographs from a room from which she has just been evicted. The pair meet, apparently not for the first time, and a little too conveniently, the homeless Sita convinces the reluctant Johan to let her move into his vacant attic.
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Working as a prostie in a karaoke bar, Sita sends most of her earnings to the distant village where her frail mom is looking after Sita’s 5-year-old daughter. However, when she is gang-raped by several customers set up by her overbearing pimp Suroso (Lukman Sardi), Sita leaves the oldest profession behind.
Sita earns her keep by cleaning Johan’s premises. The photographer announces he is seeking an apprentice before his impending death, but dismisses Sita’s candidacy because she’s a woman. Unruffled, Sita helps Johan search for a successor while her curiosity about both photography and Johan’s problems continues to grow.
Narrative is straightforward and deals its cards slowly, and only takes from the bottom of the deck when delivering denouement’s literary-style twist. Perfs have an authentic ring, and the rapport between Lim and Shanty is convincing. Sardi provides credible menace as the pimp.
Detailed production design by Men Fo goes a long way in creating the right atmosphere, and is further enhanced by Yadi Sugandi’s quality lensing. Other tech credits are of a high standard.