Lewat Djam Malam (After the Curfew) is actually a 1954 Indonesian movie which was played in the Cannes Film Festival last May, and was restored by the Italian L’immagine Ritrovata, funded, not even by the Indonesian government, but instead by the National Museum of Singapore and the World Cinema Foundation, based on an article I read in The Jakarta Globe.
This is an old movie, even older than my parents, so why oh why, instead of making a newer version of the film, they insisted on restoring it instead? This has sure piqued my curiosity.
The movie summarize the story where idealism meets reality as Iskandar, who, as a soldier, once fought for the Indonesian revolution, hoping that the country he fought for would become a better country, which would provide a better future for its citizens, ended up in a broken heart as he found out that apparently the country turned out to be nothing at all like what he’d imagined. First of all, as he returned to a society life in Bandung, West Java, and stayed at his fiancé’s house along with her family, he found that readjusting to a life post-independence wasn’t as easy as he thought. Initially he told his fiancé, Norma, that all he wanted was to live a quiet life in the suburbs as a peaceful farmer with Norma by his side. But as he started his first job in the governor’s office due to his future father-in-law’s pressure, he started to question himself. Whether his very definition of his country actually exist at all. Whether his fight back then during the revolution was really a fight for the cause of the country he loves. Then he met his friends who used to serve with him in the army, and he became even more brokenhearted finding out that the fight he fought was merely to fulfill his the personal ambition of his superior, Gunawan to get his hands on wealth and fortune. Iskandar had suspected all along as he saw how the figure he used to honor and follow became a part of a corrupted capitalists. And despite trying her best to understand him, Iskandar didn’t think Norma ever understood exactly his grief of the nation’s fate going down, because Norma came from a bourgeois family, belonged to the upper class society, who were not familiar with despair, hunger and tarnished wishes. On the other hand, when he met Laila, a prostitute kept by his former subordinate in the army, Puja, he saw the suffering of the low class society as they could do nothing but hope for a better life they’d never cease to wish for, yet in the end, the hope stays merely as a hope, an unfulfilled one.
As the frustrated Iskandar tried to resolve this problem and agitation on his own, his own fate was determined toward the end of the movie.
“Siapa yang tidak kuat melawan kelampauan akan hancur.” ~Gafar, Lewat Djam Malam
“Those who cannot fight the past would vanish.” ~Gafar, After the Curfew (roughly translated by me)
Starring A. N. Alcaff as Iskandar and Netty Herawati and directed by Usmar Ismail, I think this movie is totally a must-watch one, despite me being put off now and then by Laila’s brief-but-constant singing in a few scenes (I mean, they didn’t have Sinetron back then, right?). I agree with the review I read in the Hey Diaspora! magazine that the movie deserves more attention, because of its first class quality in the themes, plot, and act. Of course it’s incomparable in the matter of cinematography and sound effects (it’s a restored movie, come on!) with the modern-day movies as they did admit that the restoration took “great pains,” but overall, I was glad that I decided to watch the movie. Yet despite all that, there were hardly 20 audiences in the theater when despite it being only the 2nd day it was played in Surabaya (and only one theater out of fifteen), and less than a week after I watched it, it was no longer played when I checked the 21 Cineplex website. Too bad. I love every part of the movie (yes, despite the brief-but-constant singing), the story, the act (how deeply explored each character was, in my opinion), the language–oh yes, the language! The movie used a more formal, Malay Indonesian, or more of what I’d like to refer to as the Transatlantic Indonesian. There are many terms and expressions unfamiliar to the Javanese-Indonesian used around me nowadays, such as, “Mengekori sarung kebaya,” (means chasing women; “sarung kebaya” refers to the outfit worn by women at that time), or “Kita mesti gasak semua penghalang” (means “We must banish all the obstacles,” but “gasak” is a word seldomly used in the contemporary Indonesian now, as far as I know). And I can’t even believe that I’ve forgotten the existence of the word “Semampai.” I remember getting really excited as the movie started, seeing so many Indonesian words in the movie credits (the verb “Mempersembahkan” instead of “Presents,” “Tjerita Asli dan Skenario” instead of “Original Story and Scenario,”Iringan Musik oleh” instead of “Music Accompaniments by,” or “Produksi” instead of “Production”), and all of them are written using the old Indonesian Spelling (“Tj” for “C”, “Dj” for “J,” also “J” for “Y”). Yes, yes, I’m such a nerd, but those are words and language that I don’t think I ever find in the modern day movie nowadays (as we now become more and more of an English mania).
As for the title itself, “Lewat Djam Malam” which is translated into “After the Curfew”, although I kind of think “Past Curfew” might fit better, refers to the curfew first pointed out at the beginning of the story, which was 10 PM, and the scenes occurred after the set curfew at that time.
I kept thinking that I would definitely go and watch the movie for the second time, but now, knowing that it’s not even played anymore, I suppose I’d go for the DVD instead. Yes, it’s worth-watching, and yes, now I see why they went through “great pains” to restore an old movie such as this.
* * *
“Kepada mereka jang telah memberikan sebesar-besar pengorbanan njawa mereka
Supaya kita jang hidup pada saat ini dapat menikmat segala kelezatan buah kemerdekaan…..
Kepada mereka jang tidak menuntut apapun buat diri mereka sendiri.”
~Lewat Djam Malam
“To those who have given the biggest sacrifice in the form of life
So that we who live today could have freedom and all that come with it…..
To those who did not pursue their personal desire.”
~After the Curfew, roughly translated by me (they did have the translation in the movie, perhaps a more proper one)
6 thoughts on “Lewat Djam Malam (After the Curfew) (1954)”
A gem obviously (Scorsese calls “Lewat” “a powerful film.” ), a committed indie film avant la lettre on very relevant themes- and a great review. What can I do but what you are going to do: find the DVD.
I’ve no choice but add a (sincere) platitude: thanks for sharing.
You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoy the review :) I take it you haven’t watched the movie, then? I haven’t started looking for the DVD but I will soon. I hope you managed to find one and watch it soon!
Let us readers know where we can buy the DVD.
I’d love to! Really! But the thing is, I’m still hunting for it as well… :( They don’t seem to sell this movie ANYWHERE.
OK we will keep each other updated on that subject.
I am a volunteer worker for the Indonesian Film Festival in Australia and I have some connections that I chased up last night and asked them about this film. The gossip is that the highly esteemed Criterion Collection will release a bunch of restored classics from under-represented parts of the world as part of the Martin Scorsese World Cinema Foundation program that Cannes has been screening. And the Usmar Ismail movie Lewat Djam Malam was of course screened at Cannes…….:)
So I think we should all go to the Criterion Collection website and lobby for them to release it.
I also know David Hanan, an expert on SE Asian screen culture and long-time supporter of my Indo film fest, and he did the subtitles for the restored version, but even he did not know if the movie would definitely be released on DVD in Indonesia or Blu-ray by Criterion Collection. One thing is for sure, if Criterion does release it, then there will be plenty of very informative extras as part of the package. :)
Whoooo I do hope they’d release it! I would love to re-watch it since I think it’s a good movie. And your volunteer work sounds very interesting! Indonesian Film Festival, eh? I wish I could be there.
I’d definitely post an update (hopefully without procrastination :p ) should I be able to find a copy of the DVD here. In the meantime, let’s cross our fingers.