Bumpy but never dull, the Indonesian psychodrama “Fiksi” spins an intriguing web around a lonely rich girl’s obsession with a handsome writer. Co-scripted by Joko Anwar (“Joni’s Promise”), young femme helmer Mouly Surya’s debut is briskly paced and has well-drawn characters but is less assured with suspense-thriller components. Released domestically on June 19, pic reps a worthwhile addition to fest sidebars and has DVD export potential.
Traumatized by the violent, long-ago death of her mother and ignored by her distant father, virginal 20-year-old Alisha (Ladya Cheryl) spends her days cooped up at home, playing the cello and dreaming of a normal life. Closest she gets to enjoyment is replacing the white-rabbit figurines stolen by Bari (Donny Alamsyah), a buff young pool-cleaner she’s been watching from her window. Enchanted by a catchy tune he whistles, the fragile girl runs away from home and rents the apartment next door to Bari and his long-term g.f., Renta (Kinaryosih).
Arriving as the ideal new neighbor, Alisha befriends the couple and is shown around the crowded tenement by Bari, a struggling writer who knows everyone’s secrets and is using them as the basis for a novel. Claiming the building’s top floor is haunted, Bari says he has most of his work written but is frustrated by waiting for the real-life stories to reach their conclusions.
Working the line between reality and “is it all a novel?” fantasy (the title translates as “fiction”), the screenplay ramps up its thriller elements by having the increasingly unsteady Alisha seduce Bari, then orchestrates a series of violent incidents that will supply the material his work-in-progress requires. Though sequencing of events is sometimes muddled, pic boasts atmosphere and momentum as Alisha’s fixation spells doom for residents, including a reclusive old lady and two guys suspected of incestuous gay relations.
Well-cast pic makes the most of Cheryl’s doll-like features and piercing gaze to create a creepy aura around the femme fatale. Alamsyah confidently gets to grips with the scribe whose sudden glut of inspiration takes on life-or-death proportions.
Visuals generated on HD and transferred to 35mm are OK, with the best work on display in sequences tracking around moldy corridors and empty rooms in the spooky top floor. Moody, ambient score by Zeke Khaseli is the standout feature of a competent tech package.